DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- On a warm Sunday after Christmas, festive sounds of harmony and celebration flowed through Hayti Heritage Center's parking lot.
Those gathered kicked off the start of Kwanzaa.
This week marks the 55th anniversary of the seven-day cultural event.
Sunday, Baba McDaniel Roberts served as the event's emcee and Griot for the candle lighting ceremony.
He holds this holiday very close to his heart.
"It's been in my life for over 40 some years and it's just a part of my life," said Roberts, who started learning about Kwanzaa as part of a children's dance group founded by the legendary Chuck Davis of the African American Dance Ensemble.
Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili language, meaning first fruits.
The focus for the next seven days will be on seven key principles, considered rich values in African culture: Faith, Creativity, Purpose, Economics, Responsibility, Determination, and Unity, which is called Umoja.
Sunday, the group reflected on the principle of Umoja, by lighting the Black candle.
"Why is that important? Because this is what unity is all about. Bringing everything together in a positive manner and having fun," said Roberts. "Reflect on family, reflect on life, and reflect on the world."
The remaining candles on the Kinara will be lit each evening.
Kwanzaa is a non-religious, traditional holiday tied back to the first harvest celebrations in Africa.
The color black represents the people, red for the struggle, and green for the hope out of it, and the expectation for a brighter future.
Kwanzaa can also feature food, gift exchanges--culminating with songs and dancing.
In Durham, Kwanzaa will wrap up at the Durham Armory in downtown Durham on New Year's Day.
The African American Dance Ensemble will hold a free event with music, food, dancing, and prizes from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., January 1. Organizers ask guests to bring canned food items. They will be donated to Urban Ministries of Durham in honor of Baba Chuck Davis.