Briana Simmons, The Black Bear - Take the most valued aspects your culture and pack them into a colorfully festive week long celebration. This is the essence of Kwanzaa.
Kwanzaa, observed from Dec. 26 until Jan. 1, was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. Karenga was heavily involved in the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s Now, he is a professor of Africana Studies at California State University.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Kwanzaa is that it is a religious holiday. In fact, the holiday is a time to celebrate culture, family and community for all those of African descent depsite religious beliefs.
Each day of Kwanzaa is accompanied with one of the seven principles known as Nguzo Saba which means seven principles in Swahili.
The seven principles along with their meanings are as follows:
(Dec. 26) Umoja: Unity to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race
(Dec. 27) Kujichagalia: Self-Determination to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves
(Dec. 28) 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
(Dec. 29) Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics to build and maintain our own stores, shop and other businesses and to profit from them together
(Dec. 30) Nia: Purpose to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness
(Dec. 31) 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
(Jan. 1) Imani: Faith to believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory our struggle
African drummers lead the crowd in the theatre together at the start of each night’s celebration. Photo credit: Briana Simmons
The last day of Kwanzaa is meant for reflection upon the past. This “Day of Meditation” calls for us to ask ourselves three questions—who am I? Am I really who I say I am? Am I all I ought to be?
The elaborate decorations of Kwanzaa always include seven symbolic of aspects of the African-American and Pan-African culture.
The symbols include crops, the candle holder, corn, a mat, the seven candles, the unity cup, and the gift.
Mazao or the crops represent the rewards of productive and collective labor. Kinara, the candle holder, The children whom hold the future our is represented by muhindi or the corn.
During Kwanzaa gifts, or zawadi in Swahili, are given to children, but these gifts must include a book and a heritage symbol.
Kwanzaa is a time of togetherness and restoration of culture within the African-American and Pan-African communities. Celebrations take place all around the United States.
Every year, The Kansas City Chapter of The Black United Front collaborates with the Gem Theater in the historic jazz district of Kansas City for a city-wide Kwanzaa celebration.
This year’s overarching theme is In Whose Pockets is Your Economic Power? Go to these links for more information about Kwanzaa or Kansas City’s celebration.