A local nonprofit organization is inviting the community to come together and celebrate Kwanzaa by hosting seven days of celebration and education.

Songhai Bamboo Roots, a local group that provides cultural awareness programs to area youth, kicked off its annual Kwanzaa celebration Thursday at the Moss Rose Community Center in Killeen.

Kwanzaa honors African heritage and was created in 1966 by Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga, an activist, author and professor.

Ron Jupiter, Songhai’s president, said the holiday is a time to reflect on the importance of family, friends, togetherness and to reconnect with a shared heritage and culture.

“We believe in sharing our culture,” Jupiter said. “Culture reflects diversity. We are learning about ourselves, and we are teaching others about ourselves.”

Thursday’s event included several displays and information about Kwanzaa, as well as music and food.

While the seven days of Kwanzaa includes gift-giving, Jupiter said more emphasis is placed on learning and reflecting on the Ngzo Saba, or seven principles assigned to each day.

The principles are unity, self-determination, collective works and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

“Kwanza isn’t about religion; it’s about those principles,” Jupiter said. “It is about connecting with that umbilical to our past, and looking to our future.”

Jupiter said the group plans to hold an information session each night relating to the seven principles.

On Thursday, representatives from the Texas State NAACP gave a presentation on the Affordable Care Act.

“Tonight is about unity, and we wanted to bring people in the community together, and give them chance to learn more about the ACA and answer any questions they might have,” said Phyllis Jones, the education chair for the Texas State NAACP.

Talks on disaster preparedness, financial literacy, and mental and spiritual health are slated for the remaining six nights of Kwanzaa. Jupiter said the events are free and invited local residents to attend.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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