In 1966, Kwanzaa was created as a celebration of the African culture and history. The creator was Dr. Maulana Karenga, the founder and chairman of the Black Nationalist Organization. Kwanzaa is a Swahili word meaning “the first” referring to the first fruits of harvest. The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red, and green. The holiday lasts from December 26 to January 1 and examines seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
Principles of Kwanzaa
- Unity (Umoja)- To preserve unity in the family, community, and race.
- Self-determination (Kujichagulia) – To create an identity and voice for one’s self rather than allowing others to create one for us.
- Collective Work and Responsibility (Ujima) – To construct and uphold a community who work together to solve individual and group problems.
- Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa) – To construct African American stores and businesses and to profit from them collectively.
- Purpose (Nia) – To create a collective purpose for the African American Culture.
- Creativity (Kuumba) – To strive to do one’s best in order to leave a strong community for future generations.
- Faith (Imani) – To believe in the ability of the African American community to fulfill their purpose.
Symbols of Kwanzaa
The essential elements of a Kwanzaa celebration are:
- A unity cup for pouring a libation or offering in honor of their ancestors.
- A seven section candleholder called a kinara, representing the ancestors.
- A straw mat, symbolizing the history and tradition of African American culture.
- Seven candles – one black (representing the African American people), three red (representing bloodshed and the continuing struggle), and three green (representing the African homeland).
- Fruits and vegetables to represent the harvest.
- An ear of corn to represent each child in the family.
- Small gifts that reward personal achievements.
For more information about Kwanzaa contact your local library or the founder of Kwanzaa.
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