Happy Kwanza’Cac: a brief and personal overview of Kwanzaa


Habari Gani! UMOJA (Unity)

It is the first day of Kwanzaa! This holiday is one that has always been dear to my heart. Since I was young my mom and I would prepare for the awesomeness that is Kwanzaa. However, I have realized there is a lack of awareness of Kwanzaa in the ‘Cac for a completely legitimate reason. If there was ever a thing for Black people, Kwanzaa is.

Founded in ’67 by Dr. Maulana Karenga through the Black Nationalist Movement, Kwanzaa served as holiday celebration for African-Americans to celebrate their history and culture instead of submitting to the dominant culture (Sorry ChrismaKuh). The celebration allowed Blacks to create their own holiday culture. It however is in no way a substitute for Christmas or Hanukkah (Sammy Davis Jr./Lenny Kravitz/ Slash). It is not a religious holiday but centered around the Nguzo Saba or Seven Principals (One for Each Day of the Week):

  1. Umoja (Unity): Showing togetherness, our the nation, race, community and family.
  2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): We create our identities, our success, history.
  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To take on the problems and concerns of our own and create a communal effort to progress.
  4. Ujamaa: (Cooperative Economics): Maintain our communities businesses, shopping locally and black owned.
  5. Nia (Purpose): To return ourselves to our race’s greatness; taking our ancestry and reclaiming its strength
  6. Kuumba(Creativity): To leave the world more beautiful than we received it.
  7. Imani (Faith): Believing in the heart and passion of our community

The principals are in Swahili, an East African language  which is now a symbol of Pan-Africanism. It is that language that unites Black people all across the country. As a part of Kwanzaa, like the Menorah for Hanukkah or The Candles of Advent, Kinaras are lit with Pan-African Colored Candles ( 1 Black, 3 Green, 3 Red) for each day of Kwanzaa. There are also daily feasts as the name Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili word for “first fruits” or “harvest” .

Personally, I love Kwanzaa. As a child it meant 7 more days of presents, 7 more Christmases, 7 days of lighting candles. As a teen it meant, I had a Black Hanukkah with socks and other academic or smart kid gifts. As a young adult, it reminds me the power of the Black community. Despite any systematic inequality, or constant fighting for our rights. It reminds me that we all connected to the world in which we live. It is not a time for point blame or being angry. It is about glorifying an otherwise ignored part of the Black experience. It gives a space for my culture to be celebrated. I doubt there will be front page news or extreme commercialism but its an awesome holiday because it is just for us. There are rare moments when whole nations are united. We have the 4th of July but that’s only a day of unity. We as American of every race, should strive for the sense of community and togetherness that Kwanzaa offers. Its principles are reflected in any community where geographic, ethnic or otherwise. If there is an aspect of your identity you feel disconnected from, try to connect through these principles.

Stay Connected this holidays season.  For any more questions about Kwanzaa feel free to comment or email me personally at dodd.jayy@gmail.com / tweet at me @jayydodd on twitter.

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