TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Governor Laura Kelly celebrated Kwanzaa with the African-American community on Monday at the Kansas State House.

The Reverend Shirley D. Heermance of St. Mark’s A.M.E. Church gave the opening prayer and was emcee for the afternoon event.

Governor Laura Kelly was the honored guest and helped light the Kinara. The Kinara has seven candles, three red on the left, three green on the right, and a single black candle in the center. The seven candles represent the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Red, green and black are the symbolic colors of the holiday.

Stacey Knoell, executive director of Kansas African-American Affairs Commission, addressed the audience and gave a brief history of Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa is an annual celebration of African American culture from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, culminating in a communal feast called karamu. Kwanzaa was created by professor and activist Maulana Karenga in 1966. The celebration is based on African harvest festival traditions from various parts of Africa and was first celebrated in 1966.

During the week of Kwanzaa, a new candle is lit on the kinara each day. The center black candle is lit first, and the lighting then proceeds from left to right, the new candle being lit corresponding to the principle of that day. In this way, each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to the contemplation of one of the Seven Principles.

Each of the candles also has a meaning. The black one symbolizes the African people, the red their struggle, and the green the future and hope that comes from their struggle.