Kwanzaa is the only non-heroic, non-religious African American celebration. Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa in 1966. Created out of the cultural nationalist philosophy of Kawaida, Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 through January 1. Come to know the most profound agricultural celebration of Africa!
The Rich History
Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States honoring universal African-American heritage, cultrure, agriculture and history. It is observed from December 26 to January 1 each year. It centers around such activities as lighting a candle holder with seven candles. The celebration culminates in a feast and gift-giving. Created by Maulana Karenga it was first celebrated in 1966–67.The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza”, meaning first fruits of the harvest.
The Principles and Symbols
Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba—the seven principles of African Heritage).
Those seven principles are:
1. Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves stand up.
3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.
4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
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.
6. Kuumba (Creativity): 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.
7. Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
The symbols for Kwanzaa include a decorative mat on which other symbols are placed, corn and other crops, a holder for colored candles called a kinara (the color of the candles are red, green and black), a communal cup for pouring libations and gifts. Many also include a poster that outlines the seven principles of the holiday.
Why Celebrate Kwanzaa?
For many African-Americans the celebration of Kwanzaa is not about exclusion of other races or cultures, but rather an opportunity to embrace the resilience and brilliance of African heritage. For those African-Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa, there is focus, purpose, a sense of direction and established goals. Kwanzaa has is recognized by millions throughout America and the world. It is also celebrated in community settings such as churches, mosques, temples, community centers, schools, and places of work and productivity. So embrace the holiday that celebrates culture and progressiveness!
For more information about Kwanzaa in Charlotte, visit the Kwanzaa Charlotte, NC Facebook page here!
You can also gather more information about Kwanzaa in Charlotte, NC by visiting and calling the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte!
Cicely C. Mitchell