Snippet: Kwanzaa


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Kwanzaa is an annual celebration of African-American culture that is held from December 26th to January 1st. Kwanzaa is celebrated by many people of African descent in America.


Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Black Studies at California State University. After the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Dr. Karenga began working to find ways to bring African Americans together as a community. To form the basis of Kwanzaa, Dr. Karenga combined aspects of different African harvest celebrations. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza”, which translates to “first fruits”.

Image From: Museum of African Diaspora ( )

The 7 Principles of Kwanzaa

  1. Umoja (Unity) - maintaining unity as a family, community, and race of people

  2. Kujichagulia (Self-determination) - To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves

  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) - To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s 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

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The 7 Symbols of Kwanzaa

  1. Crops (mzao) - shows African American history in agriculture and reward for their labor

  2. Mat (mkeka) - foundation of self-actualization

  3. Candle holder (kinara) - represents ancestral origins in one of 55 African countries

  4. Corn/maize (muhindi) - represents children and hope in the younger generation

  5. Gifts (zawadi) - shows commitment of parents to their children

  6. Unity cup (kkimbe cha umoja) - used to pour liberations to their ancestors

  7. Seven candles (mishumaa saba) - reminds participants of the principles and red, black, and green, the colors of flags of the African liberation movement.

How it’s celebrated

Kwanzaa isn’t a religious holiday, it is a cultural holiday that emphasizes African traditions and values. It includes exchanging gifts with family members as well as eating an assortment of fruits and vegetables to symbolize the collective labor efforts from a harvest. Furthermore, a candle holder is with seven candles which the family will light one candle per night as a way to acknowledge the 7 principles of Kwanzaa. On the last day of Kwanzaa, those who celebrate will hold a banquet or karamu with singing and dancing. This is to rejoice and renew promises for personal growth for the upcoming year.


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