Bed-Stuy resident Wema Harris celebrated her first family Kwanzaa in 1988, when her grandmother, Mattie Harris, hosted the holiday. Every year since then, the Harrises have invited their friends and family to join in their Kwanzaa celebration of community and culture.
And every year, more people come to celebrate Kwanzaa with the Harrises.
"It grew until we had to start renting out a space," said Wema Harris.
Wema's uncle, Geoff Harris, said that the Harris Kwanzaa celebration has been held in catering halls, churches, everywhere. And this year, they chose the Brooklyn Children's Museum, where Wema works as a cultural educator.
"It's our first time here," said Geoff.
For the Harrises, Kwanzaa is no small matter. Thursday afternoon's celebration included an extensive program, a several page pamplet, and a website documenting the day.
Mayor Bloomberg even made an appearance, and lit the kinara to honor the holiday.
Wema embraced her family tradition as well as the spirit of Kwanzaa by turning the celebration into a learning experience for attendees at the museum, teaching them the seven principles of Nguzo Saba.
"I thought it was wonderful," said Veronica Mitchell, one of the attendees. "It covered everything."
Sherryl Allen, who grew up in Bed-Stuy, said that experiencing Kwanzaa with a family that has celebrated the holiday for over twenty years helped to illustrate its purpose.
"It shows you how this holiday can keep a family together," she said. "It reinforced the fact that these principles need to be excercised."
Indeed, Umoja, the first principle of Nguzo Saba, emphazises the importance of unity within each family and the community.
"I think that no matter how big or small your Kwanzaa event is, you take the time to cherish your family," said Wema Harris, sitting with her son, Malcolm, her uncle, Geoff, and her grandmother, Mattie. "That's what this holiday is all about."