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Community celebrates first day of Kwanzaa at St. Pete Youth Farm

This year’s weeklong observance of the African-American cultural holiday featured drumming and a vegetable harvest that hearkened back to Kwanzaa’s beginnings.
Published Dec. 28, 2021

The first day of Kwanzaa, Umoja, means “unity” in Swahili — so that’s what a community event for the holiday focused on during a Sunday celebration at the St. Pete Youth Farm.

Featuring drumming, dancing and food harvesting, the gathering was organized on Facebook by Kwanzaa St. Pete. The group was created by St. Petersburg resident Carla Bristol to honor the weeklong holiday, which was founded in 1966 to celebrate Black history and culture.

Carla Bristol, organizer of Kwanzaa St. Pete, took part in drumming while celebrating the first day of Kwanzaa, Umoja, at the St. Pete Youth Farm, Dec. 26.
Carla Bristol, organizer of Kwanzaa St. Pete, took part in drumming while celebrating the first day of Kwanzaa, Umoja, at the St. Pete Youth Farm, Dec. 26. [ Aya Diab ]

“The most important thing is, it’s not a religious holiday,” Bristol said. “It is a cultural holiday that was created to help African-Americans after they were enslaved and after all of this divide within the African-American community to kind of bring us back together and unite as a community.”

The first day celebration featured harvesting of cassava, also known as yuca, at the St. Pete Youth Farm.
The first day celebration featured harvesting of cassava, also known as yuca, at the St. Pete Youth Farm. [ Aya Diab ]

The holiday celebrates seven core principles: unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Observing these principles during Kwanzaa holds great importance to members of the African-American community, as it reminds them to work together and become united, Bristol said.

Because the holiday was modeled after the first harvest celebrations in Africa, Sunday’s attendees took part in harvesting cassava, also known as yuca, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables.

The weeklong holiday started with the celebration of unity, at the St. Pete Youth Farm, Dec. 26.
The weeklong holiday started with the celebration of unity, at the St. Pete Youth Farm, Dec. 26. [ Aya Diab ]

Bristol, who has organized Kwanzaa celebrations for the past eight years, said more information about Kwanzaa events and celebrations will be available at Kwanzaa St. Pete’s Facebook page in the future.

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