What Every Black Person Must Know About Kwanzaa

kwanzaa-usaBy Yolanda Spivey

Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday celebrated by millions of people in the African American community. Since its start in 1966, Kwanzaa was created to bring a cultural message to the world on what it means to be African and human. It was also created to give a sense of family, community, integrity and unity.  This holiday, which last for a week, is observed from December 26 to January 1.

Here are a few facts about this holiday that are quite interesting:

Fact #1- Kwanzaa was created by a man named Maulana Karenga.  He wanted to create a holiday that was specifically geared towards Blacks that gave them the opportunity to celebrate themselves and to embrace their history.

Fact #2- Kwanzaa is Swahili for “first fruits of the harvest.” It was first meant as an alternative to Christmas but has since been a holiday that everyone can enjoy—even Christians celebrate Kwanzaa.

Fact #3- Kwanzaa, like other holidays, is symbolized by decorations.  There are seven principals to Kwanzaa, (which will be discussed in a few), and so there are seven symbols that represent those principals.  The Mkeka is a decorative mat which the other symbols are placed.  Muhindi, is corn and other crops.  Kinara is the candle holder and Mishumaa Saba are the seven candles.  Kikimbe cha Umoja is the communal cup, and Zawadi are the gifts that are exchanged.  A poster is erected which displays the seven principals along with a red, black and green flag.

Fact #4- Families who celebrate Kwanzaa decorate their households with beautiful art that symbolizes African culture.  They also wear African clothing such as kente cloth and kaftans.  Usually, families hold ceremonies which consist of music, (usually drumming), libations, (the pouring of liquid to pay homage to the ancestors), reading of the African Pledge and the principal of the day, a candle lighting ritual, artistic performance and then a feast.

Fact #5- There are seven principals to Kwanzaa with each principal being observed on a separate day.  The principals are based on African philosophy and focuses on tradition and reason. The principals are as follows:

  • 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.



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One Response to What Every Black Person Must Know About Kwanzaa

  1. Christopher December 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    I must admit that I respect and admire the idea of Kwanzaa, however considering the way that we have held onto the spiritual bondage of Christianity that has long since been a matter of minority subjugation, Kwanzaa and the celebration of Black culture has fallen by the wayside.
    If we are to get into this particular holiday, we must first develop a sense of unity among our culture and tradition and not one that has been “given” to us.


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