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Brian Peterson lights candles at the 30th annual Kwanzaa at Penn. - Eric Sucar Photographer
Brian Peterson lights candles at the 30th annual Kwanzaa at Penn. - Eric Sucar Photographer

Penn’s Kwanzaa celebrates ‘regrounding our purpose’

Normally, you get gifts at the end of Kwanzaa,” said Brian Peterson, director of Makuu: The Black Cultural Center. But as with most things, this year was a little different. A Dec. 9 event was hosted not in the Hall of Flags but in the ARCH building, and the communal meal had shifted to pre-boxed food. Nevertheless, it was a time to come together and foster a sense of community, he says.

Given past few semesters, it was vital to close out the year with this celebration, says Peterson. “Kwanzaa at Penn, celebrated for the past 30 years, is a moment to recognize the seven core principles—unity, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, creativity, self-determination, purpose, and faith—and to inspire students as they head into final exams. It also brings together faculty, staff, community partners, and alumni and allows Makuu to share a small gift and a meal, which for this year, was grab-and-go,” he says.

Chime Amaefuna, a junior from King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, majoring in biology and minoring in Africana studies, was among those passing out gifts as co-chair of the Black Student League (BSL). “This has already exceeded my expectations,” Amaefuna said of this year’s Kwanzaa event.

Amaefuna’s main aspiration was a sense of unity. Because of remote learning, many first and second year students did not have a chance to meet upperclassmen, he said. “There’s a disconnect.”

BSL is trying to make some of these connections, Amaefuna said. “We want to create a safe space for Black underclassmen, create that space for them to be in Black community.”

The Kwanzaa gift offered this year was crewneck sweatshirts reading “Black Penn” in greyscale against a black background. The sweatshirts were first introduced in May during a BSL trip and have since became a coveted item, said BSL vice president Zaria Franklin, a senior from Atlanta majoring in psychology.

“Seeing ‘Black Penn’ is very empowering,” Amaefuna said. The sweatshirts will “get more people talking about the Black experience.”

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