Kwanzaa Offers A Look At Black Culture

Kwanzaa Kinara. Museum of the African Diaspora graphic
Kwanzaa Kinara. Museum of the African Diaspora graphic

The approaching holiday season provides one with the opportunity to share in many celebrations, some religious and some cultural.

This holiday season the Voice of the Wildcats decided to take a look a closer look at Kwanzaa, a celebration born in this county but with roots in the continent of Africa.

Kwanzaa, which begins Dec. 26 and runs through Jan. 1, is not a religious holiday. Instead, it is a celebration developed for the sole purpose of bringing the African American community together. It was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, then professor and chairman of the black studies department at California State University, according to History.com.

Karenga created the holiday after the 1965 riots in Watts, a predominately black section of Los Angeles, in response to the arrest of a black motorist by two white policemen. Racial tension reaches a breaking point and a crowd of spectators gathered near the site grew angry by what they believed to be yet another incident of racially motivated abuse by the police.

The riots lasted seven days and left the already impoverished Watts community in shambles.

Karenga hoped to create unity among the black community and he created a cultural organization called "US" and used his team to research African Harvest celebrations. He then used different African celebrations to form the basis of Kwanzaa.

The name Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrases "Matunda Ya Kwanza" which means "first fruit." Along with celebration there are seven principles that represent each day and ways to empower everyone in the African American Community.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are:

Umoja (oo-MO-jah) or Unity--To strive and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

Kujichagulia (koo-gee-cha-goo-lee-yah) or Self Determination - To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (oh-gee-mah) or Collective work and responsibility - To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers and sisters problems our problems and solve them together.

Ujamaa (oo-JAH-mah) or Cooperative economics - To build and maintain our own stores, shops and businesses and profit from them together.

Nia (Nee-yah) or Purpose - To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore the traditional greatness.

Kuumba (koo-oom-bah) or Creativity - To always do as much as we can, in the way we can in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial then when we inherited it.

Imani (ee-Mah-nee) or Faith - To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Over time estimates of the number of people that celebrate Kwanzaa have ranged from as high as 30 million to as low as two million in recent years. Florida has been home in the past to several festivals that took their names from one of the principals including a Kujichagulia Festivalthat was staged for several years here in Daytona Beach.

As part of the celebration, Karenga also adopted the red, black and green liberation colors for Kwanzaa. Most celebration include some form of cultural expression including dance and arts, as well as soul foods. Participants typically start the day with the follow greeting "Habari Gani," which loosely means, "what is the news." To wit, the person would reply with the principle for that day.

Each night the celebrants gather together, lit one of seven candles and talk about the principal.

So for those looking to get in touch with their African roots, this just might be the year to check out a Kwanzaa celebration.

By Stephanie Owens