Seven Glorious Days
Kwanzaa Rooted In African Traditions
Dr. Ron Karenga created Kwanzaa.
By Raynelle Cerica Bull
While most families are putting their Hanukkah and Christmas presents away, some Queens families will be getting ready for their Kwanzaa celebration.
The word Kwanzaa originates from the Kiswahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” which means first fruits of the harvest. The term represents the celebration of harvesting the first crops in traditional Africa.
Kwanzaa is an Afro-centric centered institution that is celebrated by people of African descent around the world. The celebration was created by Dr. Ron Karenga in 1966 as a way for black people to reaffirm their commitment to their heritage, themselves, their families and their community.
There are seven days of Kwanzaa starting on Dec. 26 and continuing through Jan. 1., and each day focuses on a specific principle.
The seven principles are known as the Nguzo Saba, and serve as a guide for meditation and daily living. The greeting for each day is Habari Gani, and the response is the same phrase followed by the principle of the day.
The USPS has honored the holiday with a stamp.
There are also seven African symbols incorporated into the celebration. The seven symbols are mazao (fruits, vegetables, and nuts), mkeba (place mat, representing foundation, ancestors and cultural history as a people), kinara (candleholder), vibunzi or muhindi (ears of corn, one for each child in the family), zawadi (gifts, usually made or selected to represent the principle of the day), Kikombe cha umoja (communal cup of unity) and mishumaa saba (seven candles, one lit each day starting with the black one in the center on Unity Day, the first red (which are all located to the left) and rotating to the first green on the third day (which are all located on the right) red, green, red, green. The candles are incrementally lit, so on the day of Imani all seven candles are burning uniformly.
The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa:
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
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)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
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.
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.