DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The annual Hayti Legacy Kwanzaa Celebration took place Tuesday, December 26 at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, ringing in the start of Kwanzaa.
The holiday, which celebrates African heritage, culture and contributions, begins each year on December 26th and runs through January 1st.
"Tradition and family. Community connection are all things that are very, very important," said Joy Harrell, a volunteer at Tuesday's event. "That's what Kwanzaa represents for me and my family."
The celebration Tuesday featured a marketplace with local, black-owned vendors and merchants as well as performances in the center's auditorium. Organizers emphasized that Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration, not a religious holiday, meaning it's open for all to celebrate.
"Don't be afraid to come and to see what it is or to understand what it's about," said Harrell. "Come and enjoy and be a part of the community."
Kwanzaa is marked by seven days of reflection and celebration, each corresponding to a different major principle of the holiday.
The first day is centered around Umoja or unity -- followed by Kujichagulia, or self-determination, Ujima, or collective work and responsibility, Ujamaa, or cooperative economics, Nia, or purpose, Kuumba, or creativity, and Imani, or faith.
"Many of us celebrate Christmas right along with Kwanzaa," said Teli Shabu, one of the event's organizers. "And so Kwanzaa is not anti-anything. Kwanzaa is inclusive for all of us."
Shabu moved to the US from West Africa when he was 8, and says the celebration has come to symbolize a personal harvest in his life each year.
"I take stock of what I've seen throughout the year. What seeds of positivity, what seeds of work, what sees the personal growth I've sown throughout the year," he said.
It's also an opportunity to elevate Black-owned businesses and vendors in the community.
"People look forward to coming in and patronizing black businesses, particularly handmade goods or self-made materials or things that are, you know, handcrafted in Africa," Shabu added.
The 7-day holiday ended with the annual Kwanzaa Fest in Durham.