9 ways to celebrate Kwanzaa in Los Angeles in 2020

Celebrating Kwanzaa.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)
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Kwanzaa traditions will look different this year, but it’s still possible to celebrate African American culture in Los Angeles.

The year-end event was created a year after 1965’s Watts riots as a way to honor African heritage and bring Black families and communities together.

Running Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, Kwanzaa is focused on seven principles rooted in the sacred teachings of Asante and Zulu harvest celebrations: Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was easier to celebrate these principles with dance performances, parades and other in-person community events. How can you celebrate Kwanzaa while trying to stay safe at home? By lighting a candle for each principle during the weeklong holiday and embracing the principles of Kwanzaa in the new year. You can also support Black culture, businesses and restaurants. Here are nine ways to celebrate Kwanzaa in Los Angeles in 2020, with a few excursions out of the city:

Maurice Harris surrounded by flowers in his store
Florist Maurice Harris is photographed at his Bloom & Plume Coffee shop in Los Angeles.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Shop Black-owned businesses

Many small businesses are struggling during the pandemic, and Black-owned businesses have been especially hard hit. With one of the core principles of Kwanzaa focused on cooperative economics, the holiday serves as a good reason to support Black-owned businesses in Los Angeles.

Welcome to our comprehensive gift guide for the 2020 holiday season.

Oct. 30, 2020

Celebrate virtually


We know, you’re tired of Zoom. We are too. But we’re certain these events will illuminate your computer screen in a way your office mates and family members can’t:

  • “Virtual Kwanzaa Celebration”

The Robey Theatre Company celebrates the holiday with a live variety show on the company’s YouTube page.

  • “The Hip Hop Nutcracker”

This contemporary take on the holiday classic was recorded live at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center with a dozen dancers, a DJ, a violinist and MC Kurtis Blow, who opens the show. $25. Nightly streams, with matinees on weekends and holidays, through Jan. 3. Click here for the full schedule.

Attend a Black film festival

Enjoy works by Black filmmakers who support the principles of the celebration as the fourth Kwanzaa International Film Festival, based in New York City’s Harlem, moves online. This year’s lineup includes films, shorts, documentaries and special events. All-access pass, $30.

Phoebe Bennett, 3, paints in Leimert Plaza Park.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Craft with kids

The California African American Museum kicks off the first day of Kwanzaa with a prerecorded family workshop with artist Sharon Barnes, who will demonstrate how to make a one-of-a-kind memory book. Suggested materials: cardboard, construction paper, hole punch, white glue, twine or ribbon, printed photos, drawings, small items and other decorations. 2 to 3:15 p.m. Dec. 26. Free. Reservations required.


As coronavirus restrictions lift, firms are getting back to business and hoping for your support. Here’s a list.

June 5, 2020

Post & Beam’s three principals and their staff.
Post & Beam’s three principals and their staff.
(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

Order takeout from Black-owned restaurants

Honor Kwanzaa by ordering takeout from one of your favorite Black-owned restaurants. The Times’ Food section has compiled a list of more than 200 food businesses in Los Angeles, and the options are tempting: pizzas and cast iron chicken from Post & Beam in South L.A., gumbo and po’boys from Sal’s Gumbo Shop in Long Beach, fried catfish and candied yams from Annie’s Soul Delicious in the Mid-Wilshire district and much, much more.

Participate in a Kwanzaa virtual 5K

Fit, Black and Educated in San Diego hosts a virtual 5K run to support the nonprofit’s Literacy Project and Giving Bag initiative for the homeless. Registration is $30. To join: Register for the virtual 5K and complete a 5K (3.1 miles) run/walk/bike/skate/cardio machine any time between Dec. 26- Jan. 1 (while observing social distancing).


Take a Paul R. Williams self-driving tour

The works of African American architect Paul Revere Williams are diverse and far-ranging, from iconic landmarks such as the LAX Theme Building, the Beverly Hills Hotel and the First African Methodist Episcopal Church to Spanish Colonial and Midcentury Modern homes. Williams designed grand homes for celebrities, but his designs for the less famous, such as the Modernist home pictured above, are just as compelling. Plan your own self-driving tour during Kwanzaa when traffic is light. The Los Angeles Conservancy website, which lists many of his projects, is a good place to start.

Storytime with kids

Baba the Storyteller will present the principles and practices of Kwanzaa with an Aquarium Pacific Pals puppet as emcee in this free virtual event at the Aquarium of the Pacific. The get-together will stream on the aquarium’s website from 10 to 10:20 a.m. Dec. 26 and will be viewable on demand afterward.

Nativity scene depicting Black Lives Matter protest at Claremont United Methodist Church.
A Nativity scene at Claremont United Methodist Church depicts a Black Lives Matter protest.
(Luis Sinco )

View a Nativity scene honoring Black Americans

Claremont United Methodist Church, known for mounting provocative Nativity scenes tied to current events, has installed one depicting a Black Lives Matter protest. “COVID is going to pass, but the struggle [of] our brothers and sisters, Black Americans, is going to continue for a long time,” said Genaro Cordova, the church’s facilities engineer who constructed the set. The scene is viewable from the church at 211 W. Foothill Drive.