"It's to teach our children the value of our ancestors and faith in our ancestors."
Honoring the traditions of the past while uniting for the future, is the theme of the first night of Kwanzaa. It starts a week of celebration and reflection.
"So that we as African Americans can see our roots and our values and march into the future," says organizer Ed Long, Jr.
It's gaining in popularity. Last year was the 35th anniversary of the first Kwanzaa celebration. Starting amid the social turmoil of the Sixties, it is a way to unite.
"For it to move forward we've got to have unity," says celebrant Bonnie Petty.
Unity is the theme of this first day, and the celebration runs for each of the next seven. All themes are simple principles meant to promote a change of the mind and of the heart.
"That doesn't seem like very much. But if you practice one of those principles, through the year, by the end of the year... you have really done something."
But the biggest goal is to get the newest generation excited about Kwanzaa.
"We're really hoping that the younger generation really catch on because that's our future," Petty says.
And so they'll never forget the struggles years past...