Today marks the second day of the weeklong African-American celebration of Kwanzaa, which was created 44 years ago by a professor who now teaches at Cal State Long Beach. But Belmont Shore retailers and restaurant workers on Second Street say they've had few if any customers asking to buy gifts for the seven-day celebration.
"Not a person has asked about Kwanzaa," Gina Gonzalez, a store clerk at Eden, a women's clothing store, said Sunday.
Kwanzaa is based on the theory of Kuwaida, which is Swahili for tradition, and ''Nguzo Saba,'' the Seven Principles. It is meant to celebrate the culture and traditions and empower people about their identity. It was born out of the era of Black Power but has evolved over the decades into less political interpretations.
In Los Angeles on Sunday, a parade was held and well attended, and Kwanzaa was marked in downtown Long Beach. Other festivities continue privately during the week, when a candelabrum called a Kinara is lit, and ears of corn that represent each child in a family are set out on African straw mats. Some people fast during the holiday then feast on the last night.
''In its most essential understanding and expression, Kwanzaa is a celebration of family, community and culture with each providing a context and commitment of common ground, cooperative practice and shared good,'' Karenga wrote in his annual founder's message.
On each of the seven days, gifts with symbolic meanings are exchanged. Last night celebrated the concept of unity. The second night, tonight, celebrates the concept of self-determination. A red candle is lit and the focus is on celebrating one's identity and creativity. Gifts can include books with positive messages and other inspirational items. The remaining five nights celebrate collective work/responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
Shore retail store owners said they had plenty of goods made in Africa or otherwise reflecting cultural themes in art and other items.
At Fern's Garden, there are numerous Africaxn-made items, including brightly colored fabric purses made in Ghana by Global Mamas--with labels personally signed by artisans--and intricate beads out of tightly woven paper.
Z Fabrique, a retailer offering a wide array of products from around the world, was also stocked up with candles and incense. And Second Street Beauty Supply had shelves of red, green and black candles.
Perhaps the slow demand for Kwanzaa purchases is reflected in a poll commissioned by the National Retail Federation and conducted by BIGresearch from Oct. 5 to Oct. 12 found that 1.9 percent of the 8,767 adults surveyed said they would celebrate Kwanzaa, compared to 91.2 percent for Christmas and 5.2 percent for Hanukkah. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percent.