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KWANZAA UMOJA

December 1, 2022

AYO MARIA GOODEN, PH.D., ABPBC

Co-Editor of Directions

 

 

Hotep Family,

Habari Gani? (What’s the news?) Umoja!

On the first day of Kwanzaa you greet people with the question, “Habari Gani?” which means, “What is the news?  Your response will be the principle of the day.  In this edition of Directions, we will provide you with all of the information you need to celebrate Kwanzaa not just during the seven-day celebration but, during the entire year, for the rest of your life.  We will look at the history of Kwanzaa, how to celebrate Kwanzaa and why Kwanzaa is an essential celebration for all Blacks.

History of Kwanzaa

I had the honor of meeting Dr. Maulana Karenga many years ago when he was presenting at Oberlin College in Ohio.  He is the creator of Kwanzaa which he introduced to the world in 1966.  Dr. Karenga is a professor and chair of the department of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach.  He earned two Ph.D.’s; one in leadership and human behavior/political science with a focus on the theory and practice of African American nationalism and his second Ph.D. is in social ethics with a focus on the classical African ethics of Kmt (ancient Egypt).  He is the author of 17 books, co-editor of 4 books, 57 journal articles, 650 columns and commentaries.  He created Kwanzaa to provide Blacks with a concrete strategy to build healthy Black families that can collectively build successful Black communities.  He designed it so that Blacks of all religions and spiritual beliefs can celebrate the beauty and strength of their African heritage with family, friends, and groups of Blacks.  He was aware that Blacks lacked information about African culture and values.  Kwanzaa provides a fun learning experience and an opportunity to talk with family members from the youngest to the oldest and hear their thoughts as they learn cultural values.

 

The word Kwanzaa was taken from the Swahili phrase, “Matunda ya Kwanza” which means “first fruits.”  Dr. Karenga added the extra “a” to distinguish the holiday from the Swahili word.  It is a seven-day celebration starting on December 26 and ending on January 1, when Zawadi are given to Watoto (children).  Celebrating after Christmas allows you to purchase gifts when they are more economical.  Although Kwanzaa was designed as an annual community celebration, it may be celebrated in the privacy of your home or on Zoom which DVABPsi does every year.  You can view our Kwanzaa celebration on our website www.dvabpsi.org.  Libations are poured to honor God/The Creator/Allah/Yahweh/Ogun, etc. and the ancestors who are family members and other people of African ancestry who have transitioned (passed on).

 

How to Celebrate Kwanzaa

Decorations

The color scheme should be black, red and green in addition to African patterns and artifacts.  The Kinara, Mazao, Muhindi and Kikombe cha Umoja are placed on the Mkeka.

Lighting the Mishumaa Saba

The black candle is lit first.  Black represents African people and is placed in the middle. The red candles are placed to the left of the black candle and represent the struggle that we experience prior to our success which is represented by the green candles.  The green candles are placed to the right of the black candle, represent hope and our future.  Candles are alternately lit starting with the black candle each day followed by the red then the green until they are all lit on the last day, Imani, January 1 (watch the video on www.dvabpsi.org Mbongi: Kwanzaa Umoja)

After lighting the black candle, the eldest person to the youngest, discusses how she or he has embraced Umoja in the past and describes her/his future plans to embrace this principle. The second day Kujichagulia is discussed and then each of the other principles on the subsequent days.  On the last day, Imani, Zawadi are given to the Watoto.  Zawadi should be educational items such a books, puzzles, chess sets, etc.

KWANZAA SYMBOLS

 

MAZAO (Crops)-Fresh fruits are used to symbolize African harvests which as a Kwanzaa symbol represent the rewards of your labors.

Mkeka (Mat)-The Mkeka represents our need for a strong foundation of history and tradition to build our families and communities.  This should be made from straw or cloth.

Kinara (Candle Holder)-The Kinara is symbolic of our roots including our parents, grandparents, and other ancestors.  Kinaras should be made out of wood, glass, or ceramic.

Muhindi (Corn)-Muhindi represents our children (watoto) or potential children and the future they embody.

Mishumaa Saba (Seven Candles)-Each candle represents one of the Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles).  One of the Nguzo Saba is celebrated on each of the seven days starting with the first principle, Umoja.

Kikombe Cha Umoja (Unity Cup)-The Kikomba Cha Umoja symbolizes unity.

Zawadi (Gifts)-Zawadi symbolize the labor and love of parents and the commitments made and kept by the children.

Bendera (Flag)-The red, black, and green flag (Designed by the Honorable Marcus Garvey)

 

NGUZO SABA

(The Seven Principles)

Umoja (Unity) - December 26

To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) - December 27

To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) – December 28

To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) – December 29

To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose) - December 30

To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity) - December 31

To do always as much as we can to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith) – January 1

To believe in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory or our struggle.

Why Kwanzaa is an Essential Celebration

The celebration of Kwanzaa is important for Blacks because it provides a concrete way to teach cultural values and build a strong family foundation among Black people that we must embrace, if we are to return to our original level of greatness.  For example, Kwanzaa provides symbols to remind us of the importance of talking to each other, talking to our children, and Kwanzaa provides strategies to incorporate them in the seven nights of conversation focusing on principles such as unity, self-determination, and cooperative economics.  Kwanzaa does not focus on gift giving and spending money you should use for building a strong future.  Kwanzaa is a reminder that you are an African person and that learning the truth about who you are will help to heal and empower you.  Please view our videos on Kwanzaa and other topics on www.dvabpsi.org.  Share with us how you celebrate Kwanzaa.  Please provide us with the names of Black businesses who sell Kwanzaa materials and books.  Habari Gani?  Umoja!

Barashango, I. (1983). Afrikan people and European holidays: A mental genocide. Washington, D.C. IVth Dynasty Publishing Company.

Karenga, M. (1989). The African American Holiday of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community & Culture.

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