Seven Principles Kwanzaa Celebrates
Dec 26, 2009
The seven principals Kwanzaa celebrates are what some may consider to
"transcend" racial boundaries, but the holiday that was invented by a
jailed activist doesn't ring true for most Americans. Why? Because it
was clearly designed for non-white citizens only, which in itself is
a divisive and racially motivated.
The seven guiding principles (or "Nguzo Saba" which means "Seven
Principles of Blackness) of Kwanzaa, which are celebrated like
Hanukkah in that one each is celebrated druing the seven days of
Kwanzaa with a lit candle on their version of a Menorah, are:
Unity (Umoga), Self-determination (Kujichagulia), Collective Work and
Responsiblity (Ujima), Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa), Purpose (Nia),
Creativity (Kuumba), and Faith (Imani).
The fact that the founder of this so-named holiday, Maulana Karenga,
who changed his name from "Ron Everett" in the 1960s, created it
while incarcerated as a "black activist" in 1971. Karenga and two
other US (United Slaves, an organization which he founded) members
were convicted of felonious assault and false imprisonment for having
tortured two female United Slave members, Gail Davis and Deborah Jones.
During his imprisonment, of which he complained bitterly, saying it
was overly harsh and accusing officials of ignoring his parole
requests, turned to Marxism during his jail stint.
In Karenga's embrace of Marxism, he found a new means of revolution,
that is, to change the black culture from within, primarly by finding
the means through which to unite black citizens as a "cultural
nationalist", to use his own words.
Kwanzaa, which was created to reunite and enrich the African American
community for a reorientation of values, and to reinforce their black
identity. However, some observers have noted that the seven
principles are identical to those of the Symbionese Liberation Army,
a domestic terror group that reigned during the 1970s.
In the mid-1960s, he gave himself the title "Maulana," Swahili for
"master teacher," and is now widely referred to simply as Maulana
Karenga. Professor Maulana Karenga has been Chairman of the
Department of Black Studies at California State University since 1989.
Go here to read more detail regarding the Karenga and his
controversial self-created holiday known as Kwanzaa.
It is now celebrated by millions of black citizens worldwide, most of
whom have no knowledge as to its founding, or its founder, who is
viewed as both visionary and criminal.
Kwanzaa starts the day after Christmas, and continues through January 1st.
Kwanzaa begins today
By JEN MATSICK firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTED: December 26, 2009
For the 34th year since its founding, Kwanzaa will be celebrated
across the world by more than 18 million people, beginning today and
continuing to Jan. 1, 2010.
The term "Kwanzaa" is a derivation of the Swahili "kwanza," which
means "first fruits of the harvest." The extra "a" on the end of
"Kwanzaa" is said to have been added as a way to differentiate the
Swahili term from the week-long holiday celebration.
Kwanzaa was founded in 1966 by author and college professor Dr.
Maulana Karenga. Karenga was also a political activist and
participated in the Black Power movement of the 1960s and '70s. In
addition to creating Kwanzaa, Karenga organized the black nationalist
group U.S. Organization.
Karenga is currently a professor of African Studies at California
State University-Long Beach.
Contrary to popular belief, Kwanzaa is neither a religious nor a
political holiday, but a celebration of African heritage and
traditional African values. Kwanzaa is celebrated in addition to
Christmas or Hannukah and is not meant as a replacement for either holiday.
"The core of message and expansive meaning of Kwanzaa is rooted in
its role as a rightful and joyous celebration of family, community
and culture," Karenga stated in his annual Kwanzaa message to
celebrants. "It is a holiday that grew out of the ancient origins of
first-fruit harvest festivals which celebrate the abundant good of
life and all living things and the good of earth itself and all in it."
The celebration of Kwanzaa revolves around Karenga's philosophy of
Kawaida, a set of principles based on traditional African values.
The seven principles of Kwanzaa are as follows: unity,
self-determination, work and responsibility, cooperative economics,
purpose, creativity, and faith.
To reflect the seven principles, a set of seven candles held in a
kinara, a special celebratory candle holder, are lit during the
holiday. The kinara holds three red candles, three green candles, and
one black candle, each of which represents one of the Kwanzaa
principles. One candle is lit each night of the celebration.
The kinara and candles are two of the seven symbols of Kwanzaa. Other
symbols of the holiday include the mkeka, a straw placement used to
hold the other items; mazao, or fruits and vegetables, to represent
the harvest; and the kikombe cha umoja, or cup of unity.
In addition to these items, one ear of corn is placed on the mkeka
for each child in the household. If a household has no children, a
single ear of corn is placed to represent the belief that it takes
the entire community to raise a child.
The zawadi, enriching gifts meant to reflect the seven principles of
Kwanzaa, are the final symbol of the celebration. They are typically
exchanged between family members on Jan. 1. To celebrate the final
night of Kwanzaa, Dec. 31, families will hold a karamu, a feast.
"Each Kwanzaa we are called upon to think deeply about our lives and
the world, and ask ourselves how do we as a person and people
understand ourselves and address the critical issues of our times in
ethical and effective ways," Karenga stated in his message. "Then, we
are to recommit ourselves to our highest ideals, our best values and
visions, and to a sustained and transformative practice of these principles."
Some information for this article was taken from the official Kwanzaa
Web site, www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org.
Kwanzaa said to be ebbing nationwide; still enjoys vibrancy in Memphis area
By Megan K. Scott, Associated Press
Posted December 21, 2009
Four years ago, Evita Broughton celebrated Kwanzaa for the first time
with her family -- lighting a candle each night and discussing the
But she hasn't celebrated the holiday since.
"It felt like a school project that lasted seven nights," said
Broughton, 27, of Marietta, Ga. "I didn't feel like I had that
connection. I tried to share my experiences with others but no one
else was celebrating it."
Kwanzaa, which runs from Saturday to Jan. 1, may be a mainstream
holiday with greeting cards, postage stamps and public celebrations,
but experts say its popularity is receding. Yet that's not the case
in Memphis according to at least one participant.
Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks says she's noticed a surge in
local participants as awareness of the event has spread.
"There is no truth to the fact that Kwanzaa is diminishing at all,"
she said. "It is just the opposite. More people are realizing that
Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration that has nothing to do with
religion or the celebration of the birth of Jesus."
Brooks has hosted the first night of Kwanzaa for the last 15 years,
most notably in 2007 when she held a celebration at the county
government administration building, drawing fire from employees and
prompting an unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the use of government
property for the event.
At least two separate organizations in Memphis host Kwanzaa
celebrations, Brooks said.
It will not be getting a boost from the first family. The Obamas do
not personally celebrate Kwanzaa, according to White House aides,
though a written message from the president is likely, in keeping
with the practice of his predecessors, Presidents George W. Bush and
Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Ron Karenga, a professor at
California State University, Long Beach, who is also executive
director of the African American Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
The holiday was a way for African-Americans to honor their culture,
but it was also part of the black power movement of the era. The big
boom in Kwanzaa came during its first two decades, according to Keith
Mayes, author of "Kwanzaa: Black Power and the Making of the
African-American Holiday Tradition."
But he said participation has leveled off. Based on his research, he
estimates a half-million to 2 million people in the U.S. celebrate
Kwanzaa, out of about 40 million Americans identified by the U.S.
census as black, including those who are multiracial.
Mayes, an assistant professor of African-American and African studies
at the University of Minnesota, says the black power movement was the
"engine" for Kwanzaa, and the holiday faded as the movement receded.
It started amid talk of revolution, black power and community
control, but "in the '90s and in the 21st century, it's no longer
referenced that way," said Mayes, adding that white institutions
celebrate it as part of a broader diversity initiative. "It's all
about inclusion, diversity, goodwill, multiculturalism."
The word comes from the Swahili phrase, "matunda ya kwanza," which
means "first fruits." It is not a religious holiday so it can be
celebrated in conjunction with Christmas and Hanukkah. Celebration of
the weeklong observance, based on seven principles, can take multiple
forms, from a family lighting a candle each night in their home to an
afternoon community celebration with African song and dance.
Camille Zeigler, president of the Atlanta Alumnae Chapter for Delta
Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., said many of the girls who are
first-timers at the black sorority's annual Kwanzaa celebration know
very little about the holiday.
"When you start talking about Kwanzaa and the history of it and what
it truly means for African-American people, this is something that is
new and mind-boggling for some of our students," she said.
Broughton said when she told black friends she was observing Kwanzaa,
she had to give them a lesson on its meaning. They had heard of it --
but didn't know anyone who celebrated it.
U of M Kwanzaa expert discusses past, future of African-American holiday
Kwanzaa, a seven-day cultural holiday starting Dec. 26 and ending
Jan. 1, is an African-American tradition that has been celebrated for
more than 40 years.
A University of Minnesota expert who can talk about the facts, myths
and cultural significance of this holiday is:
Keith Mayes, U of M African-American studies professor
Mayes is available for interviews and is the author of a new book,
"Kwanzaa: Black Power and the Making of the African-American Holiday
Tradition," the first scholarly work of its kind to look at black
holiday traditions as part of a greater cultural movement.
A product of the Black Power movement of the 1960s, participation in
Kwanzaa has leveled off in recent decades, says Mayes. Out of about
40 million Americans identified by the U.S. Census as black
(including those who are multiracial), Mayes estimates that one
half-million to one million people still celebrate Kwanzaa.
To see a video of Mayes discussing this holiday tradition, visit
Download the video at right here.
A podcast of Mayes speaking on his new book is also online at
To interview Mayes, contact Ryan Maus at (612) 624-1690 or email@example.com.
Kwanzaa event aims to teach about celebration
By DAN MALEY - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dec. 28, 2009
Asked what Kwanzaa was, 18-year-old Jarod "Black Majik" Gainey could
This was at the Douglass Theatre on Sunday night, where the
Macon-based Kwanzaa Cultural Access Center was staging a talent
showcase to observe the second day of Kwanzaa, the seven-day
celebration of African-American culture.
Gainey had come to perform with his rap trio, Dark Circus. He could
be forgiven for not knowing much about Kwanzaa an informal survey
of young performers there indicated that the holiday is not exactly
woven into the fabric of their lives.
Another Dark Circus rapper, Damian "Royalty" Horton, 18, knew that
Kwanzaa was "a black holiday" that had a positive message, like his
group's music. But he had never been to a Kwanzaa event before.
Anita Smith, 13, had come with the Miller Middle School dance team to
perform an African dance, She knew that Kwanzaa had something to do
with unity, but didn't know much else about it. Fellow dancer Jamesa
Moreman, 13, said Kwanzaa never comes up in conversations with her friends.
Kwanzaa was invented in 1966 by African-American activist Ron
Karenga. It is a secular holiday observed from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1,
with each day devoted to a different uplifting principle called by
its Swahili name. For example, Sunday's principle was kujichagulia,
which means self-determination.
In one sense, Kwanzaa has caught on. Public Kwanzaa events are held
all over the country. U.S. presidents from Clinton to Obama have made
"Kwanzaa messages," the U.S. Postal Service has issued Kwanzaa stamps
and Hallmark sells Kwanzaa cards.
In another sense, Kwanzaa hasn't caught on. It doesn't move
merchandise like Christmas, Valentine's Day or Mother's Day.
Marcy Spencer, assistant manager of Wanda's Hallmark on Presidential
Parkway, said her store carries Kwanzaa cards, "but we don't sell
that many in this particular store."
But card-giving is not a big part of Kwanzaa. Uplifting the black
Marie Smith, a Detroit resident visiting family in Macon, attended
Sunday's event at the Douglass. Unlike some of the young performers
there, Smith knew all about Kwanzaa. She has been celebrating it for
about 30 years.
"I like it because it's an alternative to the commercialism of
Christmas," Smith said. "Commercialism is destroying the spirit and
minds of our children."
About 100 people almost all black attended Sunday's event, which
began with a ceremony on the stage. Vinson Muhammad stood behind a
table which was adorned with symbolic objects, including a
candleholder called a kinara, a basket of fruit, chalices and a flag
colored red, black and green.
Muhammad asked the crowd to call the names of African-American
ancestors famous people as well as family members. With each name
Muhammad poured a libation from a chalice into a potted plant and led
the crowd in the traditional response: "Ashe'." He also asked for
volunteers to read the meanings of the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
Muhammad's father, George Fadil Muhammad, is president of the Kwanzaa
Cultural Access Center and has been closely involved with organizing
public Kwanzaa celebrations in Macon since they began in 1992.
George Muhammad said he believes strongly in Kwanzaa because "it's a
very good way of energizing and inspiring black people to do good things."
George Muhammad said attendance at Macon's public Kwanzaa events has
held steady over the years and private celebrations at home are
growing, although people seem to be "more comfortable as observers."
Muhammad, who is Muslim, said he has seen some stand-offish attitudes
toward Kwanzaa from local ministers, but several local churches have
hosted Kwanzaa events over the years. He has also seen some
resentment from white Maconites.
"They say, 'You're having something racially exclusive. If we had a
white holiday, how would you feel?'" George Muhammad said. "But most
of what goes on in America is based on Eurocentric values. You don't
have to say, 'white this, white that' because it's already there.
"I want to invite the Caucasian community to check out Kwanzaa and
take a look at what we're doing to improve ourselves. We're not about
'Let's blame white people.' We have to look at what are we going to
do to improve our condition."
George Muhammad also wanted to point out that an upcoming Kwanzaa
event is not called Black Power Tuesday, as previously reported, but
Black Dollar Power Tuesday. It celebrates the principle of Ujamaa, or
cooperative economics, by encouraging people to support black-owned