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— Khanya Zeigler stood on a stage at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on Friday evening, eagerly explaining the symbols of Kwanzaa.

For the start of the week-long holiday honoring African culture and heritage, the 12-year-old Detroiter reflected on Kwanzaa's seven guiding principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

"Learning about my culture is very important to me," the seventh-grader said. "It helps me know what the African people as a whole went through to get to where we are today."

The past, present and future were dominant themes at the museum's annual celebration, which kicked off Friday night with a candle-lighting ceremony, as well as music, drumming and dance.

The celebration of Kwanzaa, established in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, a professor of African studies, continues with activities on Saturday and Sunday, then Tuesday and Wednesday. Weekend events also include a "Kwanzaa marketplace," with vendors offering everything from art to knitted hats and shea butter.

The aim of the celebration is to highlight traditions as well as remind members of the African-American community of their connections, said Yolanda Jack, an education specialist with the museum.

"It's a community celebration from all aspects," Jack said. "We need unity. We need to be connected to one another, not torn apart from one another."

Since humans can trace their earliest ancestors to the African continent, "This celebration is for everyone," the Rev. Ambidwile Carter told the museum's overflowing crowd.

During opening celebrations, libations were symbolically poured for African ancestors, future generations and others. The first of seven red, black and green candles was lit. Youths in richly colored garments danced frenetically to pounding drums.

Attending was a priority for Acton King, his wife, Jasmine, and their son, Jonah. The Lansing-area residents were visiting relatives in Metro Detroit.

"There are not many activities going on like this," King said. "It's a good tool to expose to the public."

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