by Cameron Dinkins
Kwanzaa is a Pan-African and African American holiday that is celebrated from December 26 to January 1st. It celebrates family, community, and culture. The holiday is founded on seven principles known as the Nguzo Saba in which each principle is honored throughout the seven days: Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba, and Imani.
Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, an Africana Studies professor in 1966. He started Kwanzaa after the Watts riots in Los Angeles in hopes to continue to preserve, revitalize, and promote African American culture.
Umoja: It stands for unity. The purpose of umoja is for African Americans to come together as a family, a community, a race, and a nation.
Kujichagulia: is self determination. As African Americans, we have the right to decide who we are, what our names will be, our purpose, and what type of legacy we will leave for ourselves and those behind us.
Ujima: means collective responsibility. African Americans must unify to help build up our communities. This principle embodies the saying that groups are only as strong as their weakest link.
Ujamaa: is cooperative economics. It’s all about maintaining profit within the black community. Building up their own businesses and helping other African Americans do the same.
Nia: stands for purpose. This principle highlights the special purpose African Americans have to make their communities and people prosper. This is done by taking care of their communities and families and making sure everyone has the knowledge to do as well.
Imani: means faith. Faith in the hopes for the future of the African American community. No matter the struggle that has been endured by the African American community, there is hope for victory in the future.
Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols. The symbols represent the concepts and values of the African culture.
Mazao: Are crops, they represent the harvest and it gives thanks and respect to the people who grew them. (mostly ancestors)
Mkeka: is a mat, it symbolizes the foundation laid upon by ancestors.
Kinara: the candle holder, it represents the roots.
Muhindi: is corn, represents children. However many children the host family has is how many pieces of corn placed on the table.
Mishumaa saba: the seven candles placed in the kinara that represent the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
Kikombe cha Umoja: is the unity cup, is symbolic of the principle of unity.
Bandera: the flag. The flag was created by Marcus Garvey to represent the black people. The flag has three colors black, red, and green each color has a symbol. Black represents the people. Red is for the struggle, and the blood shed. While green is for the future and hope the struggle will lead to a positive future.
Like each symbol, each day of Kwanzaa is another day for participants to interact with one another and bring the old and the young together.
Kwanzaa is a time for African Americans to unite and discuss ways to uplift the community in new and unconventional ways. Some believe the principles of Kwanzaa should not only be celebrated once a year but they should be staples in the black community.