LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The 38th annual KwanZaa Gwaride parade made its way down Crenshaw Boulevard Friday, marking the start of the seven-day festival of Kwanzaa.

The gwaride, which is the Swahili word for parade, brought together members of L.A.’s African-American community as they turn their focus on “Nguzo Saba,” the Seven Principles behind Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Organizers named the theme of this year’s parade “Perfect YOUR Temple,” or body. They said it was “a call to arms in our constant and ongoing efforts to `perfect’ our lives.”

The gwaride began at the corner of Crenshaw and Adams boulevards, headed south along Crenshaw to Leimert Park, where organizers held a “Black Lives Matter” rally.

Some participants walked the parade carrying signs underlining important issues to the community, such as police brutality, home foreclosures, judicial corruption, transparency in government and environmental racism.

During Kwanzaa, a candelabrum called a “kinara” is lit and ears of corn representing each child in the family are placed on a traditional straw mat.

African foods such as millet, spiced pepper balls and rice are often served. Some people fast during the holiday, and a feast is often held on the final night.

Other Kwanzaa activities scheduled this weekend include:
– Umoja (Unity) Celebration & Candle Lighting Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Friday night at the African American Cultural Center, located at 3018 W. 48th St. in South Los Angeles.
– Kwanzaa Heritage Festival & Candle Lighting Ceremony, in the 4300 block of Degnan Boulevard in Leimert Park Village, from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, now chair of Africana Studies at Cal State Long Beach, in what he called “an audacious act of self-determination.”

“This season of Kwanzaa, as we celebrate family, community and culture around the world and recommit ourselves to bringing and sustaining good in the world, we find ourselves deeply involved in the continuing quest and struggle for justice for our people,” Karenga wrote in his annual founder’s message. “Indeed, it is an ongoing struggle to free ourselves and be ourselves
as black people, as an African people, and live the secure, good, fulfilling and meaningful lives we all want and deserve.

“This year in the midst of a rising tide of resistance against police violence, general systemic violence, and racial and social injustice, we remember and reaffirm Kwanzaa’s ancient and modern origins and the cultural views, values and practices which undergird and inform this global pan-African celebration, for they offer us excellent ways forward on the upward paths of our ancestors and culture.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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