Posted on: January 22, 2020 Posted by: Jan Kopischke Comments: 0

Kwanzaa is a 7 day celebration at the end of December created in 1966 by a California State University professor, Dr. Maulana Karenga, in response to the Watts race riots during the Civil Rights Movement as a means to re-unite the African-American community. It begins on Dec. 26. The name of the holiday is from Swahili and is based on “matunda ya kwanza” or first fruits.  

There are various ways in which Kwanzaa is celebrated in the US, but most include songs and dances, African drums, an elaborate meal, candle lighting, storytelling and reading poetry.  The celebrations include the Seven Principles of the holiday. Each night, a new candle is lit until all seven are burning; each represents one of the seven principles.

The Seven Principles are the following in English with the Swahili translation: 

Unity: Umoja – to strive for unity in family, community, nation and race

Self-determination: Kujichagulia  – to define, name, create and speak for ourselves

Collective Work and Responsibility: Ujima – to build and maintain our community, make our brothers’ and sisiters’ problems our own, and  to solve them together

Cooperative Economics: Ujama – to build and maintain our our businesses, and profit from them together

Purpose: Nia – to build and develop our communtiy to restore it to greatness

Creativity: Kuumba – to do as much as we can in the way we are able to leave our community more beautiful

Faith: Imani – to believe in our people, parents, teachers and leaders, and the victory of our struggle.

In addition to the Seven Principles, there are seven symbols.

Maazo – crops which represent hard work for the harvest.

Mkeka – the place mat or the traditional foundation on which build our lives.

Vibunzi – Ear of Corn is a fertility symbol.

Mishumaa Saba – the Seven Candles which re-create the sun’s power and provide light.

Kinara – the candle holder or the centerpiece of Kwanzaa and our ancestry.

Kikombe Cha Umoja – the Unity Cup from which all drink a toast to show unity. The remainder is poured in four directions into the ground for those who died.

Zawadi – gifts, usually homemade.

Imagine if the entire world adopted a sense of Kwanzaa.