Dec 25, 2010

Kwanzaa Begins

Kwanzaa is a week long celebration observed by African-American and Pan-African communities. It begins on December 26 and ends on January 1st. It is a celebration of family, community, and culture.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor of African Studies at California State University. It was created as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African culture and historical heritage. It is based upon ancient African "first fruits of the harvest" celebrations and incorporates the strong work ethics, values and practices established within the African culture. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning first fruits of the harvest. 

Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa focuses on one of the seven principles (or values) of Kwanzaa as established by Dr. Karenga. These seven principles are:
  1. Umoja (Unity): To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
  3. 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.
  4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  5. Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  6. Kuumba (Creativity): To do as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and  beneficial than we inherited it.
  7. 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. 

Kwanzaa decorations include seven specific items along with two supplemental items which hold symbolic meanings, they are:
  • The Mat (Mkeka) - The foundation. Symbolic of tradition and history.
  • The Crops (Mazao) - Symbolic of African harvest celebrations and the rewards of productive and collective labor.
  • The Candle Holder (Kinara) - Symbolic of African American roots, their parent people - continental Africans.
  • The Corn (Muhindi) - Symbolic of the children and the future which they embody.
  • The Seven Candles (Mishumaa Saba) - Symbolic of Nguzo Saba, or the seven Kwanzaa principles. The black candle, placed in the center represents the first principle, Umoja (Unity). The three red candles represent the second, third, and fourth principles and are placed to the left of the black candle. The three green candles represent the fifth, sixth, and seventh principles and are placed to the right of the black candle. The black candle is lit on the first day of the celebration, and the remaining candles are lit afterwards from left to right on the following days. This procedure is to indicate that the people come first, then the struggle, and then the hope that comes from the struggle. 
  • The Unity Cup (Kikombe cha Umoja) - Symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity which makes all else possible.
  • The Gifts (Zawadi) - These are symbolic of the labor of love of parents and the commitments made and kept by the children.
The two supplemental symbols are:
  • The Flag (Bendera) - The colors of the Kwanzaa flag are the colors of the Organization Us (an organization founded by Dr. Karenga), black, red, and green: black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle.
  • Poster of the Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba Poster).
Kwanzaa was originally created as an alternative to the Christmas holiday, but now, many African Americans choose to celebrate both Christmas and Kwanzaa.

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Sources: The Official Kwanzaa Website, Wikipedia
Image: Cultured Expressions.com

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting post! I knew very little about kwanzaa so this was facinating. And I was popping over to say I hope you have had a wonderful holiday!

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