Kwanzaa is the forrunner-prelude of Black History Month


Kwanzaa is the forrunner-prelude of Black History Month
that is the reason it is being included.

Observed by African Americans, parts of African diaspora

Cultural and ethnic

Date: December 26 to February 28

Related to Pan-African-ism

Kwanzaa (/'kw??n.z?/) is a week-long celebration held

in the United States and in other nations of the Western

African diaspora in the Americas. The celebration honors

African heritage in African-American culture, and is

observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a

feast and gift-giving.[1] Kwanzaa has seven core principles

(Nguzo Saba). It was created by Maulana Karenga and was

first celebrated in 1966–67.

Maulana Karenga was born in Parsonsburg, Maryland, and

moved to California in 1958 where he studied at Los Angeles

City College (LACC) and UCLA. At LACC, he became involved

in campus politics, was elected the first African American

Study Body President, and was active in the civil rights,

African independence, and peace movements. He also chaired

the Los Angeles chapter of the Afro-American Association.

Karenga transferred to UCLA, earning a B.A. (cum laude)

(1963) and M.A. (1964) in political science with a special-

ization in African Studies. After a year of working on his

doctorate, he left UCLA to work in the Black Freedom

Movement. At UCLA he had begun to develop a philosophy of

radical cultural and social change called Kawaida, which

embraces some of the essential teachings of major activist

intellectuals he studied, including Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey,

Sékou Touré, Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Frantz Fanon,

and Amílcar Cabral.

Karenga stressed revolution as both cultural and political,

and argued that cultural revolution precedes and makes

possible the political revolution, for it transforms

consciousness and forges the commitment to struggle. In

the context of the cultural and political transformation

called “Back to Black”, Karenga changed his European name,

“Ron Everett,” to an African name, Maulana Karenga, which

means “master teacher” and “keeper of the tradition”

respectively. In 1965 after the Watts Revolt, Karenga created

the organization, Us, (us African people), and structured it

as a cultural and social change organization, with a para-

military unit called Simba Wachanga (The Young Lions).

Us engaged in programs of political and cultural education,

organizing, institution-building and social service.

Using his expansive knowledge of African culture and languages,

Karenga, in 1965, also developed the Nguzo Saba

(The Seven Principles), as a key value system for Black life

and struggle, and in 1966, created the African American and

pan-African holiday, Kwanzaa, a seven-day holiday

(26 December—1 January) which celebrates family, community

and culture. Karenga and Us have also played a major role in

Black intellectual and political culture since the 1960’s,

including the Movements of Black Power, Black Arts,

Black Studies, Black Students, ancient Egyptian studies,

reparations, and the Million Man March/Day of Absence,

for which Karenga wrote the Mission Statement.

In 1971, Karenga was convicted on charges of assault

against members of his organization which he called

“trumped up” and “politically motivated.” Karenga has

consistently maintained his innocence and argues that he

was one of many victims of the FBI Cointelpro whose

announced efforts were to “discredit, disrupt and other-

wise neutralize” all radical Black leadership. And Us

and Karenga were cited in FBI documents as major targets

for this repression. After what he calls his

“political imprisonment,” Karenga returned to his

doctorate studies and earned one Ph.D. in political

science at United States International University (1976)

and another in social ethics at the University of

Southern California (1994). He currently is professor

and former chair (13 years) of Africana Studies at

California State University, Long Beach. He remains

an activist-scholar, chairing Us and the National

Association of Kawaida Organizations, and serving as

executive director of the Kawaida Institute of

Pan-African Studies and the African American Cultural

Center, Los Angeles.


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Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966, as the first

specifically African-American holiday,

(but see also Juneteenth). According to Karenga, the

name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase

matunda ya kwanza, meaning "first fruits of the harvest",

although a more conventional translation would simply be

"first fruits". The choice of Swahili, an East African

language, reflects its status as a symbol of Pan-Africanism,

especially in the 1960s, although most of the Atlantic slave

trade that brought African people to America originated in

West Africa.

Kwanzaa is a celebration that has its roots in the black

nationalist movement of the 1960s and was established as a

means to help African Americans reconnect with their African

cultural and historical heritage by uniting in meditation

and study of African traditions and Nguzo Saba, the

"seven principles of African Heritage" which Karenga said

"is a communitarian African philosophy". For Karenga, a

major figure in the Black Power movement of the 1960s and

1970s, the creation of such holidays also underscored an

essential premise that "you must have a cultural revolution

before the violent revolution. The cultural revolution

gives identity, purpose and direction."

During the early years of Kwanzaa, Karenga said that it

was meant to be an "oppositional alternative" to Christmas.

However, as Kwanzaa gained mainstream adherents,

Karenga altered his position so that practicing Christians

would not be alienated, then stating in the 1997, Kwanzaa:

A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture, "Kwanzaa

was not created to give people an alternative to their own

religion or religious holiday."

Many African Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa do so in

addition to observing Christmas.

Principles and symbols

Seven candles in a candelabra symbolize the seven principles

of Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven

principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba

—the seven principles of African Heritage), which Karenga

said "is a communitarian African philosophy," consisting of

what Karenga called "the best of African thought and practice

in constant exchange with the world." These seven principles

comprise *Kawaida, a Swahili word meaning "common". Each of

the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following

principles, as follows:

Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the

family, community, nation, and race.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves,

as well as to create and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain

our community together and make our brothers' and sisters'

problems our problems and to solve them together.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own

stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them


Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building

and developing of our community in order to restore our people

to their traditional greatness.

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.

Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people,

our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness

and victory of our struggle.

Kwanzaa celebratory symbols include a mat (Mkeka) on which

other symbols are placed: a Kinara (candle holder),

Mishumaa Saba (seven candles) mazao (crops), Muhindi (corn),

a Kikombe cha Umoja (unity cup) for commemorating and giving

shukrani (thanks) to African Ancestors, and Zawadi (gifts).

Supplemental representations include a Nguzo Saba poster,

the black, red, and green bendera (flag), and African books

and artworks – all to represent values and concepts

reflective of African culture and contribution to community

building and reinforcement.[10] With corn being the primary

symbol for both decoration and celebratory dinning.


A woman lighting kinara candles

Families celebrating Kwanzaa decorate their households with

objects of art, colorful African cloth such as kente,

especially the wearing of kaftans by women, and fresh fruits

that represent African idealism. It is customary to include

children in Kwanzaa ceremonies and to give respect and

gratitude to ancestors. Libations are shared, generally

with a common chalice, Kikombe cha Umoja, passed around to

all celebrants. Non-African Americans also celebrate

Kwanzaa.[11] The holiday greeting is "Joyous Kwanzaa".

A Kwanzaa ceremony may include drumming and musical

selections, libations, a reading of the African Pledge

and the Principles of Blackness, reflection on the

Pan-African colors, a discussion of the African principle

of the day or a chapter in African history, a candle-

lighting ritual, artistic performance, and, finally,

a feast (karamu). The greeting for each day of Kwanzaa

is Habari Gani? which is Swahili for "How are you?"

At first, observers of Kwanzaa avoided the mixing of

the holiday or its symbols, values, and practice with

other holidays, as doing so would violate the principle

of kujichagulia (self-determination) and thus violate

the integrity of the holiday, which is partially intended

as a reclamation of important African values. Today, many

African American families celebrate Kwanzaa along with

Christmas and New Year's. Frequently, both Christmas

trees and kinaras, the traditional candle holder symbolic

of African American roots, share space in

Kwanzaa-celebrating households. For people who celebrate

both holidays, Kwanzaa is an opportunity to incorporate

elements of their particular ethnic heritage into holiday

observances and celebrations of Christmas.

Cultural exhibitions include the Spirit of Kwanzaa,

an annual celebration held at the John F. Kennedy Center

for the Performing Arts featuring interpretive dance,

African dance, song and poetry.

The holiday has also spread to Canada, and is celebrated

by Black Canadians in a similar fashion as in the

United States.


In 2004, BIG Research conducted a marketing survey in

the United States for the National Retail Foundation,

which found that 1.6% of those surveyed planned to

celebrate Kwanzaa. If generalized to the US population

as a whole, this would imply that around 4.7 million

people planned to celebrate Kwanzaa in that year.

In a 2006 speech, Maulana Karenga asserted that

28 million people celebrate Kwanzaa. He has always

claimed it is celebrated all over the world.

Lee D. Baker puts the number at 12 million.

The African American Cultural Center claimed

30 million in 2009. In 2011, Keith Mayes said

that 2 million people participated in Kwanzaa.

According to University of Minnesota Professor

Keith Mayes, the author of Kwanzaa: Black Power and

the Making of the African-American Holiday Tradition,

the popularity within the US has "leveled off" as the

black power movement there has declined, and as of 2009

between 500 thousand and two million people celebrated

Kwanzaa in the US, or between one and five percent of

African Americans. Mayes added that white institutions

now celebrate it.

The holiday has also spread to Canada and is celebrated

by Black Canadians in a similar fashion as in the United States.

According to the Language Portal of Canada, "this fairly

new tradition has [also] gained in popularity in France,

Great Britain, Jamaica and Brazil".

In Brazil, in recent years the term Kwanzaa has been applied

by a few institutions as a synonym for the festivities of the

Black Awareness Day, commemorated on November 20 in honor of

Zumbi dos Palmares, having little to do with the celebration

as it was originally conceived.

In 2009, Maya Angelou narrated the documentary The Black Candle,

a film about Kwanzaa.

Stjepan Meštrovic, a sociology professor at the Texas A&M University,

sees Kwanzaa as an example of postmodernism. According to Meštrovic,

modern society has discarded ancient traditions as racist, sexist

or otherwise oppressive, but since living in a world where nothing

is true is too terrifying to most people, "nice" and "synthetic"

traditions like Kwanzaa have been created to cope with the nihilistic,

individualistic modern society.