When you greet someone by saying “Happy Kwanzaa” what do you really know about the week long African American celebration? Just in case you are scratching your head on that one, I have provided a few basic facts to get you up- to- speed.
This year will mark the 45th celebration of Kwanzaa. The holiday was developed in 1966 by activist Dr. Maulana Karenga to celebrate African American culture. Over 18 million African Americans will celebrate Kwanzaa this year.
We celebrate Kwanzaa by lighting a candle for each day of the holiday. The first candle is black, symbolizing the African American people. The next three are red, representing the struggles of the black people. Next are three green candles, which symbolize hope for the future. The candles are lit from left to right.
The foundation of Kwanzaa are the Seven Principles, or Nguzo Saba. When Dr. Karenga created the celebration of Kwanzaa he wanted to reflect the best qualities and characteristics of the “first fruit” or harvest festivals that were celebrated throughout Africa. It was these qualities that established the Nguzo Saba, or Seven Principles of Kwanzaa. (Nguzo Saba is Kiswahili for Seven Principles).
Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce the principles in Swahili, let’s just focus on the importance of the celebration and building a stronger community.
The Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba) of Kwanzaa are:
- Umoja (oo-MOH-jah): Unity
Success starts with Unity. Unity of family, community, nation and race.
- Kujichagulia (koo-jee-chah-goo-LEE-ah): Self-Determination
To be responsible for ourselves. To create your own destiny.
- Ujima (oo-JEE-mah): Collective work and responsibility
To build and maintain your community together. To work together to help one another within your community.
- Ujamaa (oo-jah-MAH): Collective economics
To build, maintain, and support our own stores, establishments, and businesses.
- Nia (NEE-ah): Purpose
To restore African American people to their traditional greatness. To be responsible to Those Who Came Before (our ancestors) and to Those Who Will Follow (our descendants).
- Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah): Creativity
Using creativity and imagination to make your communities better than what you inherited.
- Imani (ee-MAH-nee): Faith
Believing in our people, our families, our educators, our leaders, and the righteousness of the African American struggle.