YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Monday, Dec. 26 is the beginning of Kwanzaa this year. It’s a celebration of African American culture, heritage and traditional values through dancing, singing and prayer. We took a look at some unique traditions from New Bethel Baptist Church in Youngstown.

There are seven principles of Kwanzaa, each one representing a way of living for the African American community. The first principle is Umoja, which means unity — unity for the family, community, nation and race.

“We want to help our young people to become empowered so that they can create their own destiny and future. So the principles of Kwanzaa help us to do that,” said Rev. Kenneth Simon.

Kwanzaa began in the 1960s and has been celebrated in Youngstown since 1968.

The night began with a beautiful dance from the Harambee Youth Organization. Harambee means, “Let’s all pull together.”

“It brings the community together. It’s just a good time — you hear music, you hear drums and you just dance along for a couple hours,” said Nadia Simms, a Harambee dancer.

One woman we spoke with has been a member of Harambee since 1995. Now, her kids participate in the celebration and she hopes to keep the family legacy alive.

“We don’t know a lot about ourselves and where we came from and our culture, so I think it’s extremely important for the kids, all kids of any race to participate and learn the African culture,” said Ragen Kimbrough, of Youngstown.

The energy from the crowd felt strong, proud and inspiring.

“Come together again and celebrate, love on each other, hug each other. It’s all about our children displaying their talents and teaching them,” said Lynnette Kimako Miller, who coordinates Kwanzaa in Youngstown.

Monday night was the first Kwanzaa celebration New Bethel has held in person since the pandemic.

If you were unable to make it, the Progressive Baptist Church in Warren will hold a celebration on Dec. 29.