Estimated reading time: 8 minute(s)
Originally published 12.27.09
Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from 26 December thru 1 January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.
Kwanzaa was established in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga in the midst of the Black Freedom Movement and thus reflects its concern for cultural groundedness in thought and practice, and the unity and self-determination associated with this. It was conceived and established to serve several functions.
The first-fruits celebrations are recorded in African history as far back as ancient Egypt and Nubia and appear in ancient and modern times in other classical African civilizations such as Ashantiland and Yorubaland. These celebrations are also found in ancient and modern times among societies as large as empires (the Zulu or kingdoms (Swaziland) or smaller societies and groups like the Matabele, Thonga and Lovedu, all of southeastern Africa. Kwanzaa builds on the five fundamental activities of Continental African “first fruit” celebrations: ingathering; reverence; commemoration; recommitment; and celebration. (Source: The Official Kwanzaa Website)
According to Dr. Karenga, The Nguzo Saba (7 Principles) of Kwanzaa are:
Umoja (Unity) â€“ To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) â€“ To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) â€“ To build and maintain our community together and make our brotherâ€™s and sisterâ€™s problems our problems and to solve them together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) â€“ To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Nia (Purpose) â€“ To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba (Creativity) â€“ 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) â€“ To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
If you live in the Houston area, here is the full Kwanzaa schedule of events organized by the SHAPE Community Center: Houston Kwanzaa Host Schedule 2009-2010
“The principles of Kwanzaa should not just be confined to the 7 days of the celebration. We should strive to keep them in our hearts and practice them throughout the year”—Aminah Hanan Blog