Reflecting upon African ancestry, unity and values
Kwanzaa is the Swahili word for "first fruits." And just like a joyous harvest, it's a time for celebration. Guided by the seven traditional principles known as Nguzo Saba, Kwanzaa starts on Dec. 26 and is a week of reflection on African ancestry, unity and values. The holiday is observed annually by more than 18 million people throughout the United States, Canada, England and the Caribbean.
Maulana Ron Karenga, now a professor of black studies at California State University, Long Beach, came up with the idea for Kwanzaa in 1966 as a way to restore a sense of connection with African culture.
When someone greets you by saying, "Habari gani?" they're asking you what's new. And during Kwanzaa, the answer is always the honored principle of the day.
The first principle of Kwanzaa, Umoja, stands for unity. On Dec. 26, the day is set aside to resolve family or community problems and find ways for everyone to pull together.
Kujichagulia is the second principle, and its translation is "self-determination." Dec. 27 is dedicated to the need for living and speaking for oneself and to be true to what one knows is right. To live the value of Kujichagulia, families can explore their African heritage through culture, language and history. It's a time to learn more about the historical events that helped define culture (e.g. the civil rights movement in the United States).
The third day of Kwanzaa is based on Ujima, collective work and responsibility. On this day, people of color can help each other accomplish chores, and join with the community to complete area projects.
The principle of Ujamaa, or cooperative economics, helps build strong financial foundations. Shopping in black-owned stores or sharing skills are great ways to celebrate Ujamaa.
As people of color affirm Nia, they reinvigorate their sense of purpose. They respect their individual goals, as well as those of others. Values and the traditions of the past are honored.
Dec. 31 is dedicated to Kuumba, or creativity, and African arts take center stage. The festivities include reading poetry, telling folk tales, and performing traditional dances.
On Jan. 1, the principle of faith is honored.
As the holiday of Kwanzaa closes and the new year begins, people of African ancestry come together in pride and self-worth. A feast, called Karamu, is served and homemade gifts, Zawadi, are shared.
Kwanzaa is a holiday celebrating the legacies of the past and the remembrance of the struggles. And always, it is about pride, courage and hope for the future.
Related: The Official Kwanzaa Website
Tags: Kwanzaa, Holidays, African-American, Pan-African, History, Education by Sistrunk