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Arts center holds Kwaanza celebration

This year, the Hamilton Hill Arts Center celebrated its 24th annual Kwanzaa Celebration at the New York State Museum in Albany.

It was something that started in terms of the area not really having an event that celebrated the holiday spirit in terms of African customs, said Tony Gaddy, Director of Public Relations and Marketing for the Hamilton Hill Arts Center.

Kwanzaa, a weeklong holiday that incorporates African heritage, is celebrated every year from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. The holiday began in 1966.

Miki Conn, executive director of the Hamilton Hill Arts Center, said she sees Kwanzaa as an opportunity for the community to come together.

"[It's an opportunity] to reaffirm and reinforce the bonds that connect us as a people and as a world community," said Conn.

It is an event that can be celebrated within the family or in a communal setting.

"Our celebrations are the communal [type]. What we have done is distilled it over time to an afternoon of workshops and vendors and activities for children, followed by a candle-lighting ceremony," said Conn of the annual celebration.

The candle-lighting ceremony highlights the seven principals of Kwanzaa. According to Conn, these are principals that are meant to make the world a better place and enrich the lives of those who follow them.

"They introduce and reinforce those seven principals through the candle-lighting ceremony," said Conn.

At the celebration, seven individuals in the community whose work or lives exemplify those principles were asked to light each candle.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are in Swahili, because it is one of the more common languages spoken on the African continent.

The seven principals are as follows: Umoja, which stands for unity; Kujichagulia, which stands for self determination; Ujima, which stands for collective work and responsibility; Ujamaa, which stands for cooperative economics; Nia, which is purpose; Kuumba, which stands for creativity; and Imani, which stands for faith

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