The sixties was a turbulent time, especially for African
Americans. As a way of preserving African American
culture, Dr. Maulana Karenga created a cultural holiday
from December 26 through January 1.
In 1966 Kwanzaa was born out of a need for all African
Americans, regardless of their religious beliefs, to
come together and celebrate family, tradition and
Kwanzaa’s roots are derived from a Swahili term known as
“matunda ya kwanza” or first fruits. It has been the
focus of a seven day event which not only encompasses
the African tradition but is based on the Pan-African
language which is primarily spoken in Africa today.
Similar to New Years, Kwanzaa represents the passing of
one year and the welcoming of a new year to come. It is
a time of reflection in which African roots are observed
much as they were during ancient times when African
harvest or first fruit celebrations represented five
functions which included: the reaffirmation or
“ingathering” of people to bond together, giving thanks
to the creator, recognizing and honoring ancestors,
honoring cultural values and celebrating life as a
family, a community and existence as a people.
In addition, within the Kwanzaa history are Seven
Principles also known as Nguzo Seba which are part of
the seven-day celebration. When African Americans
reinforce their values rooted in their ancient culture.
To commemorate this special holiday, a Kwanzaa setting
is placed in a central part of one’s home in which seven
symbols are utilized to represent the values of the
African culture and serve as a reminder of one’s
commitment to family and community.
Kwanzaa is a time of reflection that is celebrated by
African Americans worldwide. It is a time in which
ancient traditions are revisited and the rich history of
the African culture is renewed through the reassertion
of family values and community. It is a holiday in which
every African American is afforded the opportunity to
acclaim their heritage and to reaffirm their commitment
to the ancient bonds which serves to strengthen their
own identity in particular and as part of the world
community in general.
In addition, within the
Kwanzaa history are Seven Principles also known as Nguzo
Seba which are part of the seven-day celebration. When
African Americans reinforce their values rooted in their
The Seven Principles are as follows
Umoja (Unity) - to strive for and maintain unity
in the family, community, nation and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) - to define
ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and
speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) - to
build and maintain our community together and make our
brother's and sister's problems our problems and to
solve them together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) - to build and
maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and
to profit from them together.
Nia (Purpose) - to make our collective vocation
the building and developing of our community in order to
restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba (Creativity) - to do always as much as we
can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community
more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Imani (Faith) - to believe with all our heart in
our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and
the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
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