BARSTOW - Annie Grahm didn't invite the community to her home for Kwanzaa this year.
It wasn't because she didn't want to, or a problem at her house. Grahm didn't invite anyone to her home because after seven consecutive years, the Kwanzaa celebration she has hosted outgrew her house.

The celebration had modest beginnings with less than 10 people and no speakers in it's original incarnation. The celebration was held in the office at the Suncrest Apartments to accommodate the crowd of more than 40 people this Saturday. Evangelist Clarissa August spoke about the importance of unity and the meaning of the celebration. Members of Grahm's Adelanto Church of God in Christ sang gospel songs for the crowd.

Grahm said she wants to continue to help the celebration grow and teach more people about it.
"I think having the celebration for the community is important because a lot of people don't understand what Kwanzaa is," Grahm said. "People don't know the history. I believe it's been hidden until 1966 when Dr. (Maulana) Karenga started it here. Now my main thing is to open it to the community."

Dr. Maulana Karenga created the holiday as a time for African-Americans to celebrate their culture and community in 1966. The Kwanzaa celebration runs from December 26 to January 1 and has its roots in Africa. The name Kwanzaa come from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means first fruits.

Kwanzaa has seven principles and symbols that represent the holiday. Mazao, the crops, represents the African harvest celebrations and rewards of hard work. Mkeka, the mat, is a symbol of the history and foundation that everything is built upon. Kinara, the candle holder, represents African-Americans' roots in the people of Africa. Muhindi, the corn, is symbolic of children and the future. Mishumaa Saba, the seven candles, represents the seven principles people are urged to live by. Kikmbe cha Umoja, the unity cup, stands for the founding principle of unity. Zawadi, the gifts, represents the love and labor of parents for their children.

"My favorite symbol or principle is unity because the point is for people to come together," Priscilla Banks said. "When you interact with people good things happen. It's about unity with people of other cultures too. It doesn't matter what culture or if you're yellow, white, purple, pink, brown."