Kwanzaa 2011

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Are you familiar with Kwanzaa? This week-long celebration─observed every year from December 26 to January 1st in the U.S.─honors universal African-American heritage and culture.

Dr. Maulana Karenga of the US Organization founded Kwanzaa in 1966 as the first specifically African American holiday. As an African American and Pan-African holiday celebrated by millions throughout the world African community, Kwanzaa brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense.

According to Dr. Karenga, the intention of Kwanzaa is to give Blacks an alternative to the existing holidays, and especially, an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their collective history and heritage. He summed up the associated ideals in the seven principles of Unity (Umoja), Self-Determination (Kujichagulia), Collective Work and Responsibility (Ujima), Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa), Purpose (Nia), Creativity (Kuumba), and Faith (Imani).

The term Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning first fruits of the harvest. Kwanzaa in fact traces its roots back to the Black Nationalist movement of the 1960s, and was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical roots by uniting to learn about African traditions and Nguzu Saba, the “seven principles of African Heritage.”

Kwanzaa celebrations include activities such as lighting a candle holder with seven candles which represent the seven principles, and culminates in a feast and the giving of gifts. One way to learn more about Kwanzaa is to see The Black Candle, an award-winning documentary on the topic narrated by Maya Angelou in 2009:

Also worth checking out is the book Kwanzaa: Black Power and the Making of the African-American Holiday Tradition, by Keith Mayes. Click here to view.

Perhaps the best resource was created by none other than the founder of Kwanzaa, Dr. Maulana Karenga. Visit the official Kwanzaa website here:

Happy Kwanzaa─or “Heri za Kwanzaa!”

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