HARKER HEIGHTS — Five small children sat on the floor of the public library Thursday morning to learn about Kwanzaa, a week-long holiday that celebrates the seven basic values of African-American people.

Kwanzaa, which began Dec. 26, was developed in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, now chair of California State University Long Beach’s Department of African Studies, according to his website. In Swahili, Kwanzaa means “first fruits.”

Librarian Lisa Youngblood sang, danced and read aloud the book “My First Kwanzaa” by Karen Katz. She also used a felt board to illustrate parts of the story.

“First we get the kinara, it’s made of shiny wood, and I put in seven candles,” she said, pointing out the felt kinara and candles on the board. “We light a candle every night to celebrate a special idea.”

The seven basic principles at the heart of the origin and meaning of Kwanzaa are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. During Kwanzaa ceremonies, ears of corn representing each child in a family are placed on traditional straw mats and a feast of harvested goods is served, Youngblood said.

Susan Basantes of Harker Heights clapped and sang along with Youngblood and tried to keep her very busy 14-month-old daughter Sophia focused on the program. They are regulars at the library’s storytime.

“When she was younger, we used to come on Mondays when they have baby lapsit,” she said.

Lucy Abella and her daughter, Cheryl Abella, also were busy corralling 16-month-old Noah as Youngblood read aloud to the group. It was their first visit to the library’s storytime.

When Youngblood finished reading to the group, participants created their own “straw” mats out of construction paper and had a feast of rolls, cookies, fruit and juice.

Contact Kristi Johnson at kristij@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7548

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