The African American Museum of Iowa is celebrating the holiday season with a small exhibit looking at a few of the holiday traditions that African Americans have participated in. This year, we will be highlighting traditions such as Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa and Jonkonnu, African American tradition from the 1800s. Items representing these holiday traditions will be on display in our lobby exhibit case, which will be on display until 1/2/2018.
55 12th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401
On December 2nd, the museum will host holiday craft tables for children to learn about these four holiday celebrations and their connection to the African American community from 11am-3pm. We will also have Mrs. Clause here to read stories and greet families and visitors from 11am-1pm.
Two of these crafts will teach visitors about both older and more current traditions celebrated by African Americans in the United States. The first of these is a tradition from the 1800s called Jonkonnu. When Africans were captured and sold as slaves, they brought many religious, ceremonial, and festival traditions with them. Jonkonnu, also called John Coonering, was one that blended West Africantradition and adornment with holiday traditions such as Christmas caroling. During these celebrations there would also be dancing, costumes, masks, plays, and more.
The other celebration, which is currently still celebrated in many communities, is Kwanzaa. The name Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanzaa,” or “first fruits.” Kwanzaa is modeled after traditional African harvest festivals and celebrated in the seven days between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The primary focus of the holiday celebrates the Nguzo Saba, or seven principles: Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith.The Kinara and the seven candles symbolize ancestry and the earth, while the woven mat the arrangement is placed on represents tradition. Each night, as one of the seven candles is lit, participants drink from the Kikombe cha Umoja, symbolizing unity.-