Kwanzaa ceremony in Lower Manhattan honored ancestors, called for protests against police brutality

BY NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, December 26, 2014, 9:54 PM
The Fusha Dance Company celebrates Kwanzaa at the site of the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan.
LOUIS LANZANO/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWSThe Fusha Dance Company celebrates Kwanzaa at the site of the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan.

A ceremony in Lower Manhattan marking the first day of Kwanzaa was a mix of honoring ancestors and calling for continued protests against police brutality.

The celebration runs seven days; each has a corresponding principle in Swahili: umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith).

Cyril Innis Jr. led Friday’s event at the African Burial Ground. He asked about 60 participants to call out the names of their ancestors.

Cyril Innis conducts the ceremony celebrating the African American holiday of Kwanzaa at the site of the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan, Friday, Dec. 26 , 2014.
LOUIS LANZANO/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWSCyril Innis conducts the ceremony celebrating the African American holiday of Kwanzaa at the site of the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan, Friday, Dec. 26 , 2014.

“It’s the spirit of our people, the spirit of our ancestors,” Innis said. “It’s different here than any other place in the city. You can feel it.”

The event was held inside the federal building at 290 Broadway, near the 6.6-acre burial ground where hundreds of slaves were anonymously interred in the 17th and 18th centuries. More than 400 sets of human remains were discovered and unearthed at the site beginning in 1991. They were examined and returned to the African Burial Ground in 2003.

Innis also used the Friday gathering to rally New Yorkers to keep up demonstrations against police abuse.

Cyril Innis lights the seven candles of Kwanzaa during the ceremony in Lower Manhattan.
LOUIS LANZANO/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWSCyril Innis lights the seven candles of Kwanzaa during the ceremony in Lower Manhattan.

“The people are speaking loud and clear,” he said. “The protests are a good sign, and we’re going to win.”

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, while on vacation in Hawaii, extended holiday greetings to those celebrating Kwanzaa.

“As we remain committed to building a country that provides opportunity for all, this time of year reminds us that there is much to be thankful for,” the statement read.

This article originally appeared in The New York Daily News 

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Author: sabrinacaserta

Sabrina Caserta, born and bred in Bronx, New York, is a freelance reporter whose work has appeared in the New York Daily News and Street Sense- a homeless-run street paper located in the District. As a member of Roger Williams University’s class of 2016, Sabrina studied Journalism and Political Science. This fueled her passion for social justice reporting, including issues of homelessness, institutionalized racism, poverty, education and the environment. She also served as the Project Director of the nation-brand initiative, The Re:Imagine Jamaica Project, and as a Resident Assistant for three years. As an avid reader, health enthusiast and travel addict, Sabrina enjoys yoga, cooking and writing in her spare time. She aspires to one day be an investigative journalist and travel the world. Twitter: @sabrinacaserta Email: sabcaserta AT gmail DOT com

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