Kwanza is a week long Pan African holiday/festivity of civilizing reaffirmation, honouring the culture and traditions people of African origin and their descendants worldwide. It falls between December 26 and January 1 each year.
It has an explicit ideology, customs and codes which are associated with the communal and spiritual needs of African people. There are moral and ethical values that emphasize and focus on a clear purpose to support the cooperative self concept as a populace, respect our past, assess our present and commit ourselves to a fuller, more abundant prospect. The rationale of Kwanzaa is to bring everybody together in celebration of their black culture and to live by using 7 guided principals of African culture as a beacon for life all year round. It asserts no ties with any religion. The seven principles of Kwanzaa are: unity; self-determination; collective work and responsibility; co-operative economics; purpose; creativity; and faith.
What does the word Kwanzaa mean?
Kwanzaa, means “first fruits of the harvest” in the African tongue Swahili, has gained tremendous acceptance. The selection of Swahili, an East African language, mirrors its position as a representation of Pan-Africanism, chiefly in the 1960’s, although most African-Americans have West African descent. An extra “a” was added to “Kwanza” in order to make it a seven lettered word.
When was it first celebrated and why?
Kwanzaa was first celebrated in December 1966 and January 1967. The holiday was proposed by graduate student Maulana Karenga as a graduate student distressed by the 1965 riots in Los Angeles’ Watts area, determined that African-Americans needed a yearly event to commemorate their disparities rather than the melting pot. His aim was to give those of African descent a holiday to celebrate their own cultural heritage and the key values of family and community. It is one of the fasted-growing holidays in the history of the world. It is now estimated that about 13 percent of Africans in the Diaspora (nearly five million people) celebrate the festival in some way. It is important to learn about Kwanzaa as it was created with a specific purpose, of protecting our Cultures and Traditions. Not a spiritual holiday, Kwanzaa is, somewhat a seven-day merriment that begins on Dec 26 and is carried on through Jan 1st.
What do people do during Kwanzaa?
Kwanzaa consists of a week of celebrations, which ends with a feast and the exchange of gifts. During the celebrations, candles are lit and libations are poured. A libation is the name given to a ritual pouring of a drink as an offering to a god. During Kwanzaa, a wooden unity cup or calabash bowl is used to pour the libations. A Kwanzaa ceremony often also includes performance of music and drumming, a reflection on the Pan-African colors of red, green and black and a discussion of some aspect of African history. Women often wear brightly colored traditional clothing. Some cultural organizations hold special exhibitions of African influenced art or performances during the period of the celebration.
THE SEVEN PRINCIPALS OF KWANZAA: People who commemorate Kwanzaa hope to support the black community by sticking to seven guiding principles, designated by words from the Swahili language.
UMOJA (OO-MO-JAH) Unity.
The importance of togetherness for the family and the community in order to be productive and to survive. To put differences aside as they divide and destroy. On this day, we pledge to strive for — and to maintain — unity in the family, in the community, in the nation that we have helped to build, and with our PEOPLE.
“I am because We are.”
KUJICHAGULIA (KOO-GEE-CHA-GOO-LEE-YAH) Self-Determination
Requires that we define our common interests and make decisions and choices that are in the best interest of ourselves, family and community. To be clear what we are fighting for. On this day, we pledge to define ourselves, to NAME ourselves, to create for ourselves, and to speak for ourselves, instead of being defined, named by, created for and spoken for by others. On this day we design for ourselves a positive future and then vow to make that prophecy — that DREAM — a self-fulfilling one.
UJIMA (OO-GEE-MAH) Collective Work and Responsibility
To remind us of our obligation to the past, present and future, and that we have a role to perform in the community, society, and world. Participate in the fight for liberation. All obliged to play a role and or face the raft of our ancestors who sacrificed their lives. On this day we celebrate working together in the community to help others.. We pledge to rebuild our communities and to help our people solve our own problems by working together to do it.
If one is not free then all is not free.
UJAMAA (OO-JAH-MAH) Cooperative economics
To emphasizes our collective economic strength and be encouraged to meet common requirements through mutual support. To put money into our businesses; build institutions, investment and make personal sacrifice. On this day of we pledge to develop our own businesses and to support them, to maintain shops, stores and industry that contribute to the well-being of our community.
NIA (NEE-YAH) Purpose
To encourage us to look within ourselves and to set personal/individual goals that are beneficial to the community. On this day, we pledge to build and develop our communities, our schools and our families. We also pledge to provide a strong communal foundation from which our children can develop into strong and productive people.
If it’s not worth dying for then is it worth living for.
KUUMBA (KOO-OOM-BAH) Creativity
To make use of our creative and artistic energies to build and maintain a strong and vibrant community. To channel creative strength to nation building then celebrate then liberate. On this day, we pledge to do whatever we can to make our communities and homes more beautiful and better than we found them. We also pledge to use our creative talents and energies to improve young minds and hearts.
IMANI (EE-MAH-NEE) Faith
As spiritual and natural people to regain faith, self-worth and confidence in ourselves and our leaders’ ability to succeed and triumph in the righteous victory of struggle. To focus on honouring the best of customs our traditions, draws upon the best in ourselves, and helps us strive for a higher level of life for humankind. On this day, the beginning of the New Year we pledge to believe with all our hearts and minds in our people, our parents, our good and dedicated teachers and leaders, and in the greater good of the work we do with and for one another, for the community and for the PEOPLE.
Yenu iwe na heri – Have a happy and fruitful Kwanzaa