African American Holiday Association


About Us

HISTORY of The African American Holiday Association (AAHA)

The Event that Started a Mission:
Since 1982, community organizer/wholistic practitioner, Ayo Handy Kendi, realized that there needed to be a cultural and spiritual alternative to the overly-commercialized Christmas holiday season, while encouraging the African American community to use this high retail shopping season as a vehicle for self-help and empowerment. Beginning with 25 vendors in 1982, she organized the first "Family Afternoon Bazaar in Washington, D.C.'s downtown Lansburg Center. This event grew in two years to be the Christmas Kwanzaa Bazaar and continued as the African American Holiday Expo. The Expo grew steadily over the years, outgrowing several venues, offering an opportunity for an estimated 2,000 merchants, artists, healers and businesses who offered quality African-centered, merchandise, crafts, health and business services. The African American Holiday Expo bought together a combined estimated audience of 75,000 people over its 26 years from 1982 to 2005, and was once recognized as the oldest, east coast celebration of Christmas and Kwanzaa, spawning any number of replicas in the Washington, D.C Metropolitan area and around the Nation.

The Expo would became the annual fundraiser for the non-profit organization, AAHA for 26years.

But the legacy that Mama Ayo, called by many, was the most proudest of, was the Youth Entreprener Program (YEP) along with the many black-self-help, services , artisan and businesses opportunity that grew from the  African Anerican Holiday Expo.  Her slogan "Spend Your Money Where it Counts" is still used to promote Black economic self help by recycling Black spending.
The Beginning of an Organization:
As the Expo special event grew, it spawned an organization - the African American Holiday Association (AAHA). AAHA, incorporated in 1989, by Handy-Kendi.  AAHA was an outgrowth of public interest shown during the Expo's public relations campaigns which  identified the public health concerns, cultural/economic and quality of life issues around holidays. She became inspired with the potential for organizing for social justice while healing Spirit, Mind and Body using holidays, celebrations and rituals.

In 1989, the mission of the event was expanded as a non-profit, 501(c ) (3) membership organization that perpetuated and preserved culture through traditional and non-traditional holidays, celebrations and rituals.

Since 2017, AAHA's organization's 501(c)(3) status has been suspended, but it continues to operate as a non-profit group that has worked together since 1989

In 2021,AAHA is looking for leadership to revamp it's work as an association and to begin efforts to reinstate it's non-profit status.  Serious inquiries will be accepted by writing if you have an interest in developing the much needed work of an association for Black Holidays, Celebrations and Rituals.  Email:
Co-Creators of New Holidays and Traditions:
AAHA has added to the culture by its’ founder, Ayo Handy-Kendi, being the visionary for  new holiday (wholyday) alternatives: Black Love Day- Feb. 13th (started in 1993), Ancestor Honor Day- May 30th, Unity in Diversity Day, May 1st (both started in 1995) and the Ritual of Reconciliation, a new tradition. Due to it’s community educational outreach, AAHA has further advanced the awareness of Kwanzaa, Juneteenth, D.C. Emancipation Day, Harriet Tubman Day, Women’s History Month, Native American History Month, Grandmother’s Day, World Aids Day, World Asthma Day/Month, International Breath Day, World Breathing Day, Malcolm X Day, Nelson Mandela Day, alternatives to Thanksgiving, the 4th of July (4th of U-Lie) and has shared the ritual of Libations at countless programs and activities.