Today marks the first day of Kwanzaa, the Pan-African holiday created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga founder and chairman of the Black Nationalist Organization and current professor and chairman of Africana Studies at Cal State-Long Beach, as a way for African Americans to celebrate their heritage. Where most African-American people are just fine with celebrating Christmas, there are those who have moved away from Christmas, and those who celebrate both.
Kwanzaa was created to:
- To reaffirm the communitarian vision and values of African culture and to contribute to its restoration among African peoples in the Diaspora, beginning with Africans in America and expanding to include the world African community.
- To introduce and reinforce the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles and through this, introduce and reaffirm communitarian values and practices which strengthen and celebrate family, community and culture.
- To serve as a regular communal celebration which reaffirmed and reinforced the bonds between us as a people in the U.S., in the Diaspora and on the African continent, in a word, as a world African community. It was designed to unite and to strengthen African communities.
- As an act of cultural self-determination, as a self-conscious statement of our own unique cultural truth as an African people. That is to say, it is an important way and expression of being African in a multicultural context.
The word “Kwanzaa” comes from the phrase, “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first-fruits.” Kwanzaa’s extra “a” evolved as a result of a particular history of the Organization Us. It was clone as an expression of African values in order to inspire the creativity of our children. In the early days of Us, there were seven children who each wanted to represent a letter of Kwanzaa. Since kwanza (first) has only six letters, we added an extra “a” to make it seven, thus creating “Kwanzaa.”
Contrary to popular belief, Kwanzaa is not tied to any religion, even though it falls on the day after Christmas. Kwanzaa is rooted in seven principles known as Nguzo Saba, and each principle represents an aspect of African philosophy.
“The Nguzo Saba stand out as a clear way to walk, work and struggle in the world as African people; a way of life that begins with the respect for the relational character of human life,” he wrote. “It is a cultural way we call communitarian, i.e., community-grounded, which understands that we come into being, develop and flourish relationships. And it is a way that teaches that the hub and hinge on which the whole of human life turns is the quality of relationships.”
The principles are: Umoja (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self-determination); Ujima (Collective work and responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity); and Imani (Faith.)
Clutchettes, do you celebrate Kwanzaa?