Kwanzaa is a holiday that was created for the purposes of reaffirming the values and visions of the African community and culture. The holiday was devised in order to restore and contribute to the African culture, particularly for those individuals that are part of the Diaspora and including African Americans as well as Africans throughout the world. The history of Kwanzaa reveals that the holiday was also established in order to introduce and strengthen the Seven Principles or the Nguzo Saba. This would then help to improve and support the culture, values, and ethics of the African peoples. This holiday is celebrated for a period of seven days and is observed every year from December 26th until the first of January.
Kwanzaa was established by Maulana Karenga who purposefully developed it in the mid 1960s when African Americans were struggling for their rights and for their liberties. The purpose behind the holiday was to unite African Americans, to continually promote their culture, and to establish strong communal bonds. It was also intended to intensify the community consciousness of blacks in America. The holiday lends to the development of an empowered and morally grounded community and encourages the remembrance of ancestors, of struggles, of accomplishments, and of what can be accomplished when a group works together peacefully as a cohesive unit.
History Of Kwanzaa: Its Beginnings
Maulana Karenga (also known as M. Ron Karenga, Ron Karenga, or Ronald McKinley Everett) was a political activist and an author. He was very active in the Black Power movement during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Karenga established a black nationalist group named the Us Organization,, and continues to promote Kawaida which is a philosophy that emphasizes cultural and social change. The Kwanzaa celebration held each year typically involves the act of lighting seven different candles, gift giving, and feasting. The first Kwanzaa holiday was officially celebrated in the year 1966. Each of the candles that are lit during the holiday come to represent the Seven Principles or values including Unity, Self Determination, Responsibility and Collective Work, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith, or Umoja, Kuji-chagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba, and Imani respectively. In addition, the holiday has been modeled after Zululand and Umkhost African holidays, each of which consists of celebrations lasting seven days in duration.
History Of Kwanzaa and Its Evolution
The term Kwanzaa is derived from the short phrase meaning “first fruits” or “matunda y kwanza.” Later, the term was written with an additional “a” at the end of the word. In the early beginnings of the Us Organization, the term Kwanza was intended to stir creativity in African children.
Kwanzaa has become an amazing popular African American holiday for a number of reasons. First, honoring the holiday helps to cultivate a sincere appreciation for the values and visions of the African American culture and community. The holiday emphasizes a focus on family and roots both modern and ancient. This holiday also provides all African Americans with their own unique “truth” in a world of various “multicultural” truths. Kwanzaa serves to strengthen and reinforce the ancient African customs and traditions. Last, the holiday of Kwanzaa serves to bring all generations and ages of African Americans together as one community, no matter what their background or location.
Today, the community values of Kwanzaa even appeal to those that are not of African American descent. This holiday is sometimes celebrated by people of various cultures around the world, just as some cultures might honor a holiday like the Chinese New Year or the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo. Public and communal celebrations are commonplace. This holiday has wholesome, universal messages that are suitable to all and that encourage creativity, good will, sharing, and responsibility.
Gifts for children are often given and they typically have some cultural significance. Colors associated with the holiday include greens, blacks, and reds with decorative items that include symbols associated with bounty, culture, and art. These symbols include art, special cloth patterns, African baskets, and many more.
Currently, there is a strong drive to keep the holiday of Kwanzaa non-commercialized. Participants are asked to avoid the corporate attempts to make the holiday a commercialized endeavor. It is believed that by adhering to the strong principles of the holiday that all blacks can keep the holiday from becoming desensitized in terms of its original meaning; the history of Kwanzaa reveals that the holiday is based upon significant ethical considerations that would ultimately be lost through the process of commercialization. Kwanzaa should not be mistaken for a holiday that acts as a substitution of Christmas. In fact, anyone wanting to celebrate Kwanzaa can do so by choice and one can still celebrate Christmas on December 25th if they have the religious predilection to do so.
Kwanzaa is and remains a time of gathering for various African American peoples from around the world. The holiday still represents the establishment of a bond among African peoples, and is a time of giving thanks for the bounty one receives, to give thanks to the Creator, and to appreciate all of the beauty in the world. This holiday is a time when the past is honored, lessons are remembered, and a recommitment to the highest possible cultural and ethical values is acknowledged.
The Seven Principles Of Kwanzaa
There are seven principles of Kwanzaa which are also known as the 'seven principles of blackness' which were set down by Maulana Karenga which are fundamental to this celebration. These seven principles are as follows:
Unity or Umoja in Swahili - this means that people must strive for unity within their family their nation, their race and their community.
Self-determination (Kujichagulia) - this means that a person must define themselves, creating for themselves and speak out for themselves.
Collective work and responsibility (Ujima) - this means that people should strive to maintain their own community and help other people overcome any problems in their lives.
Co-operative economics (Ujamaa) - this means people should build their own businesses and stores to enable the community to profit from them as one.
Purpose (Nia) - this means everyone’s purpose should be to build their communities and encourage the people living in them to strive for the greatness that is within them.
Creativity (Kuumba) - this means that people should always do as much as they possibly can and in this way they can enhance their community and make it even better.
Faith (Imani) - this means that all people should believe in the people around them and believe that the struggle of the people will be victorious.
Symbols Of Kwanzaa
In order to celebrate Kwanzaa there are certain items that are needed which symbolize the principles. This includes decorative maps which various items and symbols can be placed on, a candle holder for seven candles that represents the seven principles which is called a kinara, a communal cup, a black, red and green flag, and a poster showing the seven principles and various crops.
Since its creation in 1966, Kwanzaa has become more and more popular with black African Americans. More and more people are looking for a way to celebrate their history and culture and Kwanzaa is the perfect way to do this. A recent study has shown that in America over 5 million people each year celebrate Kwanzaa which means it is steadily growing in popularity.