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An inside look at Kwanzaa

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital employee is named after the holiday

A lady stands in front of a medical office

The annual celebration of African American culture, Kwanzaa, is right around the corner. One VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital team member has a special connection to the holiday.

Kwanza Dodd, of Chase City, was named after the Kwanzaa holiday because of the seven meanings connected to each day of festivities. Her parents chose the name due to the strength that stands behind it.

While Dodd, who works as a patient access representative in the C.A.R.E. Building, celebrates Christmas with her family, her parents instilled in her many of the principles of the holiday she is named after. That also includes how her name is spelled.           

You may have noticed there is only one ‘a’ instead of two, like the holiday.

“I love the way my name is spelled,” Dodd said. “One of the seven meanings of Kwanzaa is kuumba (creativity) and that was very creative of my parents to drop an ‘a.’”

The three other meanings of Kwanzaa that are the most relevant to Dodd are kujichagulia (self-determination), nia (purpose), and imani (faith).

“Kujichagulia is very relevant as I am determined to succeed and be the best at whatever I do, no matter the circumstances. Nia has relevance to me as I do all things with purpose. If not, they will not be done in a manner of excellence. Imani is huge, as without faith, you have nothing. It takes faith to start every journey and chapter in your life,” Dodd said. 

The three remaining words for each day are umoja (unity), ujima (collective work and responsibility), and ujamaa (cooperative economics). Activist Maulana Karenga established Kwanzaa in 1966 as a way for African American families to reconnect to their roots, after a year of civil unrest. The Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza means “first fruits” and is celebrated with the southern solstice in South Africa. The extra ‘a’ was added for the symbolic nature of the number seven.