What Is The Real Purpose Of Kwanzaa?

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During the holidays, there are several observances commemorated by different cultural groups including the celebration of Kwanzaa. The celebration of Kwanzaa is an African American holiday started in 1966, by Malauna Karenga, a central figure during the Black Power movement of the mid 1960s and early 1970s. Kwanzaa was created during a time of social uprisings against racism, and was to re-establish community and to enlighten African Americans of their African culture.

Kwanzaa is based on seven principles that are reaffirmed during the celebration and are practiced all year long. The official colors of the holiday are black, representing the people, red for the struggle, and green for the hope after the struggle. The celebration of Kwanzaa begins on December 26th and lasts until January 1st with one candle being lit every day during that week.

Each candle is a symbol for one of the seven principles:

  • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves stand up.
  • 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 together.
  • 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 heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Since its inception, Kwanzaa has become unfamiliar with younger generations. Many families have passed on the traditional celebration while others can’t even name one principle. There are local schools like Imhotep Charter High School and Wakisha Charter School that presently include the teachings of Kwanzaa in their curriculum. The purpose of Kwanzaa and its background is important to African American history as it celebrates the past, present and future as a culture collectively.

Words by: @valeryeg

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