Community / The World

Kwanzaa celebrates the heritage and future of the Black diaspora

Kwanzaa is a time when families and friends come together to remember past struggles and celebrate what Black people have overcome. The holiday which spans from December 26 to January 1st focuses on the history and values of Pan-Africanism.  

It is a non-religious holiday created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, an American author and activist, is celebrated by over 12.5 million Americans. Although Kwanzaa began as an African American holiday, it is celebrated internationally specially Canada and the Caribbean. The name of the holiday as well as its seven principles come from the Swahili language.

Dr. Karenga created Kwanzaa for three main reasons. First, “it was to reaffirm our rootedness in African culture because we had been lifted out of our own culture and made a footnote and forgotten casualty in Europe’s culture and history.” Secondly, “I created Kwanzaa in order to give us a time when we as African people all over the world could come together, celebrate ourselves, reinforce the bonds between us, and meditate on the awesome meaning of being African in the world.” Thirdly he created Kwanzaa to introduce and reaffirm the importance of communitarian African values, values that stress and strengthen family, community and culture. 

People of all faiths can celebrate Kwanzaa. As Dr. Karenga says in an interview, “all of our faiths teach us to speak truth, to do justice, to care for the poor and vulnerable, to have a rightful relationship with the environment, to constantly resist evil and injustice, and always raise up and pursue the good. And Kwanzaa stresses these values among others.”

During the week of Kwanzaa many meals feature foods of the Black diaspora, for example African American, Caribbean, African, and South American foods.

The Pan African colors are often displayed on decorations and clothing. The red represents the struggle, the black represents the people, and the green represents the future.

Each day an additional candle is lit to honor one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa:

-Day one, Umoja (Unity): To create and manage unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

-Day two, Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): “To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.”

– Day three, Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): Make our community’s problems your problems.

– Day four, Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To support our stores and business.

-Day five, Nia: Building up our community (not tearing each other down)

– Day six, Kuumba (Creativity): Leave our community more beautiful than before.

– Day seven, Imani (Faith): To believe in our people and victory over struggle 

Not every Black person celebrates Kwanzaa but everyone can appreciate its message of unity and empowerment.

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