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Day 11 - K is for Kwanzaa

What is Kwanzaa?

  • Kwanzaa is not a festival originating in any of the 55 African countries, nor is it an "African" Christmas celebration. Kwanzaa is an African-American celebration of life from 26 December to 1 January. Dr. Maulana Karenga introduced the festival in 1966 to the United States as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home. Dr.Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa after the Watts riots in Los Angeles. Dr. Karenga searched for ways to bring African Americans together as a community. Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder), then one of the seven principles is discussed.

7 Principles of Kwanzaa

  • The seven principles, or Nguzo Saba are a set of ideals created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Each day of Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle.


    Unity:Umoja (oo–MO–jah)
    To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.


    Self-determination: Kujichagulia (koo–gee–cha–goo–LEE–yah)
    To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.


    Collective Work and Responsibility: Ujima (oo–GEE–mah)
    To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.


    Cooperative Economics: Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah)
    To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.


    Purpose: Nia (nee–YAH)
    To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.


    Creativity: Kuumba (koo–OOM–bah)
    To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.


    Faith: Imani (ee–MAH–nee)
    To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.



About Dr. Maulana Karenga

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    Dr. Maulana Karenga, an activist-scholar of national and international recognition, has had a far-reaching effect on Black intellectual and political culture since the 1960s. Through his intellectual and organizational work, his organization, Us, and his philosophy, Kawaida, he has played a vanguard role in shaping the Black Arts Movement, Black Studies, the Black Power Movement, the Black Student Union Movement, Afrocentricity, ancient Egyptian studies and the study of ancient Egyptian culture as an essential part of Black Studies, Ifa ethical studies, rites of passage programs, the Independent Black School Movement, African life-cycle ceremonies, the Simba Wachanga Youth Movement, Black theological and ethical discourse, and the Reparations Movement.



7 Symbols of Kwanzaa

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    Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols and two supplemental ones. Each represents values and concepts reflective of African culture and contributive to community building and reinforcement.