The strong beat of drums drew students into a celebration of a lesser-known holiday Tuesday evening.

The Multicultural Center celebrated Kwanzaa in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center Ballroom. Around 40 students and faculty attended the ceremony and karamu, or feast.

“Kwanzaa is a celebration for individuals of the publics of African neospora in which they can come together and have a holiday,” said ChrisTopher Moore, assistant director of the Multicultural Center. “It can be universal. It was meant to be for people from a certain culture, but Kwanzaa can truly be something for everyone. ”

  • The holiday was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 to celebrate family, culture and heritage, and is modeled after the first harvest celebrations in Africa according to the Official Kwanzaa Website.
  • While Kwanzaa is rooted in African culture, people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds are encouraged to join in the celebration said ChrisTopher Moore, assistant director to the multicultural center.
  • Some celebrities have been known to celebrate Kwanzaa each year, including Oprah, Maya Angelou and Angelina Jolie according to a PBS article.

At the celebration, there was a poetry reading, lighting of the Kinara, or candles, and the reading of the Seven Guiding Principles.

The Seven Guiding Principles — umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith) — are universal and applicable to students even at Ball State.

“We held this Kwanzaa event to help educate students about it and make them aware of it, and also to encourage the celebration of it,” Moore said. “I do not know many students who celebrate Kwanzaa.” 

While few students celebrate Kwanzaa, Moore said that Kwanzaa is rising in popularity globally because of current political and social issues. Some of those issues were incorporated in a poem read and written by senior communications major Gabriel Rudolph for the event. 

“They tried to take my body, they tried to take all of me, but they can’t have it. But we, each of us, all of us, can have this [Kwanzaa],” Rudolph read from his poem.

He said he wrote the poem to help chronicle history and bring forth the importance of Kwanzaa in today's culture.

“I wanted to remember the history but include the hope of moving forward that the holiday brings,” Rudolph said. “Students should know that Kwanzaa is a time to be celebratory and aware.” 

To Alice Penwell, a member of the Shamaniacs Drummers who performed at the event, Kwanzaa is a newer holiday that uses older traditions.

“Every since I heard about I have celebrated it,” Penwell said. “I thought it is really fabulous that it is focused on a community celebration of harvest.”

Contact Liz Rieth with comments at or on Twitter at @liz_rieth.