NSU professor reflects on significance of Kwanzaa as holiday begins

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Posted at 8:26 PM, Dec 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-26 22:39:36-05

NORFOLK, Va. - The holiday weekend continues with Sunday marking the first day of Kwanzaa.

For more than half a century it's been a time to celebrate and recognize African American history and culture.

News 3 spoke with Norfolk University professor Dr. Derrick Lanois, about the significance of Kwanzaa, especially in 2021.

"When I got to college, there was a whole lot of things about African-American history and culture I did not know anything about," Dr. Lnois recalls first celebrating Kwanzaa 20 years ago. "When it was introduced to me, as part of this African-American studies program, it resonated with me because for the first time in my life, I had a holiday that was created by and for people of African descent."

Since then it has become a tradition.

The holiday that started in the 1960's, celebrates African American history and culture from December 26 through January 1. Each day, recognizing principles, including unity, self determination, purpose, and faith.

Dr. Lanois tells us the holiday came out of protest.

"You have these uprisings of African-Americans speaking up and speaking out about their conditions here in the United States. And we even see that now, after George Floyd's murder, and these other African-American murders. And even with some of these police officers being convicted in 2021 of what they did in 2020," Dr. Lanois said.

He says Kwanzaa is "one of those things that shows that we can have a sense of purpose, a sense of community, and a sense of self-determination without oppression."

Dr. Lanois says this year Kwanzaa is personally significant after he lost his mother on October 19.

"My mom named me and gave me her initials. I'm a DAL and her name is Deborah Ann Lanois. She named me Derrick Albeon Lanois and my son is the second, so he's named after me. That would've been three generations," he stated. "Us three generations have been doing this his entire life, and even before then."

He says this holiday is going to be based on what they can do together to not only celebrate his mother's legacy but also to set goals that she would approve of from this moment forward.

Lanois says Kwanzaa's purpose involves not just reflection, but also moving forward and setting goals.

"We're coming to the end of this chapter and that's the reason why January 1 is the last day of Kwanzaa, because now we're set to do the work in 2022," he said.

Dr. Lanois says he hopes to see Hampton Roads have a community-wide Kwanzaa celebration next year.