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.
“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.
“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