Created by Dr. Maulana Karenga
The Kwanzaa holiday is observed from 26 December through 1 January, and its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.
As an African American and Pan-African holiday celebrated by millions throughout the world African community, Kwanzaa brings a cultural message that speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense.
The first-fruits celebrations are recorded in African history as far back as ancient Egypt and Nubia and appear in ancient and modern times in other classical African civilizations such as Ashantiland and Yorubaland. These celebrations are also found in ancient and modern times among societies as large as empires (the Zulu or kingdoms (Swaziland) or smaller societies and groups like the Matabele, Thonga and Lovedu, all of southeastern Africa. Kwanzaa builds on the five fundamental activities of Continental African “first fruit” celebrations: ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment and celebration.
The Values of Kwanzaa
THERE IS NO WAY TO UNDERSTAND and appreciate the meaning and message of Kwanzaa without understanding and appreciating its profound and pervasive concern with values. In fact, Kwanzaa’s reason for existence, its length of seven days, its core focus and its foundation are all rooted in its concern with values. Kwanzaa inherits this value concern and focus from Kawaida, the African philosophical framework in which it was created. Kawaida philosophy is a communitarian African philosophy; an ongoing synthesis of the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.
* A time of ingathering of the people to reaffirm the bonds between them;
* A time of special reverence for the creator and creation in thanks and respect for the blessings, bountifulness and beauty of creation;
* A time for commemoration of the past in pursuit of its lessons and in honor of its models of human excellence, our ancestors;
* A time of recommitment to our highest cultural ideals in our ongoing effort to always bring forth the best of African cultural thought and practice; and
* A time for celebration of the Good, the good of life and of existence itself, the good of family, community and culture, the good of the awesome and the ordinary, in a word the good of the divine, natural and social.
Rooted in this ancient history and culture, Kwanzaa develops as a flourishing branch of the African American life and struggle as a recreated and expanded ancient tradition. Thus, it bears special characteristics not only as an African American holiday but also a Pan-African one, for it draws from the cultures of various African peoples, and is celebrated by millions of Africans throughout the world African community. Moreover, these various African peoples celebrate Kwanzaa because it speaks not only to African Americans in a special way, but also to Africans as a whole, in its stress on history, values, family, community and culture.
Kwanzaa was established in 1966 in the midst of the Black Freedom Movement and thus reflects its concern for cultural grounding in thought and practice, and the unity and self-determination associated with this.
The Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles)
Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce seven basic values of African culture that contribute to building and reinforcing family, community and culture among African American people as well as Africans throughout the world African community. These values are called the Nguzo Saba, which in Swahili means the Seven Principles, and stand at the heart of the origin and meaning of Kwanzaa.
Umoja (oo-MOH-jah) Unity
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
Kujichagulia (koo-gee-CHAH-goo-lee-ah) Self-Determination
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (oo-GEE-mah) 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.
Ujamaa (oo-jah-MAH) Cooperative Economics
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Nia (NEE-ah) Purpose
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah) 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.
Imani (ee-MAH-nee) Faith
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
The holiday is an ancient and living cultural tradition which reflects the best of African thought and practice in its reaffirmation of the dignity of the human person in community and culture, the well-being of family and community, the integrity of the environment and our kinship with it, and the rich resource and meaning of a people’s culture.
Excerpted from THE OFFICIAL KWANZAA WEB SITE
The Capital City Kwanzaa Festival, first presented in 1990 by the Elegba Folklore Society, embodies the philosophy, principles and values of the Kwanzaa holiday. A family celebration, it creates an atmosphere and a forum for individual focus, family strengthening, community building, re-commitment and the enjoyment derived from being a vital part of the African world community. This is our year’s end thanksgiving event as we acknowledge for the fruits of our labor and project new growth for the year ahead.
On Saturday, December 31, the 2011 Capital City Kwanzaa Festival will capture the spirit and the significance of the Kwanzaa season. In a colorful event at the Showplace, the stage will light up with performances and talks by artists and historians of international note and local favorites to help tell the story of rich heritage and folklore. There will also be opportunities to discuss a variety of topics to underscore the need for a strong cultural foundation.
And there will be more. The African Market will be bulging with garments, jewelry, artifacts, books, imports and food. The festival will engage children in take-home craft making and other enrichment activities.
Janine Bell, founder and artistic director of the Elegba Folklore Society, has produced annual Kwanzaa programs in Richmond since 1986. Because of this programming, observance of the Kwanzaa holiday has consistently increased in Richmond and surrounding areas. The festival provides a particular contemporary significance against the backdrop of Richmond’s history. Richmond, the nation’s second largest market of enslaved Africans, is known as the capital of the confederacy and black entrepreneurship.