Relationship: Child of im/migrant
Kwanzaa candleholder
Kwanzaa candleholder

The kinara holds the red, black and green candles lit during Kwanzaa. My husband and I have celebrated Kwanzaa (December 26-January 1) since the year our daughter was born. Seven principles form the foundation of the Afrocentric celebration: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujiima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith). We invite relatives and friends to our home on each of the seven nights – sharing food and a discussion of that day’s principle. Names of loved ones whose lives exemplified the principles are offered and their stories - often immigration stories - are shared. My father is the son of Jamaicans who emigrated to Panama’s Canal Zone as children with their parents. He and his brothers were born in Panama and came to the US in the late 1950s. My mother was born in NY; her parents and grandparents were part of the Great Migration of black citizens who left southern states for northern cities. We often speak of my maternal grandmother – Her mother died in a tragic house fire when she was a month old; she grew up during the Depression. She was determined that her daughters would be college educated – my daughter is now the third generation of college graduates. My husband’s family is from Trinidad, and he arrived in the US at the age of six. Both of his parents have passed away in recent years; Kwanzaa has served as a gentle way to keep our memories of them alive. 

Place(s): Panama, Jamaica, Trinidad, New York City

– Alisa Martin

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant