Thursday marks the opening of Kwanzaa, a holiday founded and held in the United States since 1966.

Kwanzaa Maulana Karenga, an African-American professor of Africana studies, created the festival as a celebration of black history and community.

Kwanzaa spans seven days and seven ideas, one for each day. Today's is Umoja, a word in Swahili meaning unity -- some sources give it a sense of alliance, of harmony, of many people acting as one whole. In some public or private celebrations, people light seven candles, one for each day and principle. Here Stephen Sneed extinguishes the candles following a community Kwanzaa celebration, at right.

The six days that follow will focus on self-determination, responsibility, cooperation, purpose, creativity and faith -- which may mean faith in people, in strength of character and in each of these guiding ideas.

The holiday asks children to think of these things. Here young girls in the Focus Is Our Children dance group watch the older dancers perform, above, and Frances Jones-Sneed talks about the holiday, at right.