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.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at [email protected].
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.