The history of Kwanzaa is a relatively new one. It was created 55 years ago by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a then-professor at California State University. Inspired by harvest celebrations of several African tribes including the Ashanti and Zulu, Karenga used the traditions of those African celebrations to create a new weeklong celebration.
It’s that celebration of Black and African culture and community that inspired Lawrielle West to begin her business KwanzaaMe, a one-stop shop for all things Kwanzaa. West got the idea after she decided to celebrate the holiday and was struggling to find a kinara, a seven-arm candleholder used for Kwanzaa celebrations. Armed with a background in community organizing and a woodworking skill, West began creating custom kinaras.
“KwanzaaMe is a way for me to shift my passion about uniting people, but just in a different way,” West says. “Struggling and fighting for our freedom doesn't always have to include struggling, but also celebration and joy, and other ways that we can be committed to each other and our growth.”
KwanzaaMe not only carries handmade kinaras, they also offer Kwanzaa kits, which include everything needed for someone looking to celebrate Kwanzaa for the first time. The Traditional KwanzaaMe Set contains items such as a kinara, candles, cup of unity, and a Kwanzaa celebration guide to help guide users through their first Kwanzaa. West says some people feel if their kinara doesn’t come from Africa, it’s not authentic, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Some people think getting things like kinaras from Africa or Nigeria, or just anywhere that's outside of the U.S., makes it more authentic,” West says. “But because Kwanzaa is an African American holiday, it is actually the most authentic being made right here in the black Mecca, which is Detroit.”
KwanzaaMe kits and kinaras begin at $100 and are available online at KwanzaaMe.com.
Kwanzaa begins Sunday, Dec. 26. and ends Saturday, Jan.1.