What is Kwanzaa?
Do You Know About…
Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration held in the United States that honors African heritage in African-American culture. Kwanzaa is observed from December 26th to January 1st, and culminates in gift-giving and a big feast.
Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Africana Studies at California State University, first created Kwanzaa in 1966. He created this holiday in response to the Watts Riots in Los Angeles in 1965 as a way to bring African-Americans together as a community.
Dr. Karenga created seven guiding principles to be discussed during the week of Kwanzaa. The seven principles represent seven values of African culture that help build and reinforce community among African-Americans. Each day a different principle is discussed, and each day a candle is lit on the kinara (candleholder). On the first night, the center black candle is lit, and the principle of umoja, or unity is discussed. On the final day of Kwanzaa, families enjoy an African feast, called karamu.
Day 1. Umoja: Unity - To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
Day 2. Kujichagulia: Self-Determination - To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
Day 3. Ujima: Collective Work and Responsibility - To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and solve them together.
Day 4. Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics - To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Day 5. Nia: Purpose - To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.