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In the ‘60s when Ron Karenga began Organization US (a rival to the popular Black Panthers), changed his name to “Maulana ,” meaning “master teacher” in Swahili and vied for control of UCLA’s newly formed African Studies Department (an effort that lead to the fatal shooting of two Black Panther members on campus), he invented what was to be the first African American holiday, Kwanzaa. Karenga had no idea what a huge success his vision would become. In fact, at the exact same time he was sitting in prison for the torture and false imprisonment of two of Organization US’s female followers in 1970, Rev. Al Sharpton was singing the praises of this new holiday publicly. Regardless of its creator’s sordid past, today millions celebrate their African heritage, unity and culture by lighting the candles on the kinara , feasting on fresh fruit and wearing brightly colored robes during the seven days of Kwanzaa. Join Bowers Museum, and possibly Dr. Karenga himself—currently a professor of African Studies at CSULB—as they partake in this American cultural tradition.
Sat., Dec. 27, noon, 2008

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