Sunday, May 24, 2015

Holiday Tradition: Kwanzaa

While Kwanzaa may not have a long history, it is a week long celebration which is held in the United States, Canada and other nations of the Western African diaspora. It is observed from December 26th - January 1st.

It was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, which incidentally is my alma mater . The holiday was created after the Watts riots as a way to bring African-Americans together.

Kwanzaa celebrates the seven principals of Kwanzaa (the seven principals of African Heritage.) Each of the seven days is dedicated to one of the following principals:

  • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to 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 brothers' and sisters' 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 hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Households are decorated with objects of Art and women wear colorful African cloth in celebration and to give gratitude to their ancestors during this time of celebration. The ceremony includes drumming and musical selections, the reading of the African Pledge and the Principles of Blackness.

The holiday gives African-Americans a way to incorporate and celebrate elements of their ethnic heritage into holiday observances and celebrations of Christmas.

unknown. (unknown). Kwanzaa. Available: Last accessed 05/18/2015.
unknown. (unknown). Kwanzaa. Available: Last accessed 05/18/2015.
Reprinted with permission from

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