Kwanzaa turns 50 : A History Lesson

Kwanzaa turns 50 : A History Lesson

Within the last week, I found myself saying, “Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Kwanzaa.” And, I also had several people inquire about Kwanzaa as they had never heard of it. What I realized is that even though Kwanzaa turns 50 this year, there is so much more opportunity to educate the community on the importance of this African American celebration. I see it as a festival of  bright lights that came to brighten a people during a period of total darkness.

Kwanzaa, which derives from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning “first fruits of the harvest” is celebrated in the United States and in other nations of the Western African diaspora in the Americas. It incorporates African and African-American culture into a 7-day time of peace, love, hope, joy, acceptance, dedication, support, and reflection. For me and many like me, it is a time to really celebrate the rich heritage that is within us and follows us everywhere we may travel.

Kwanzaa was conceived in Los Angeles, CA by Dr. Maulana Karenga in ’66 in response to the uprising called the Watts riots which involved deadly clashes between police and blacks because an officer named Lee Minikus erroneously arrested an African American on suspicion (sounds similar to things of today).

When the above took place and was paired with high levels of unemployment, segregation, lack of housing, and being seen as less than, the end result was a rebellion and a starvation for change. That change began with Kwanzaa being born.

Black people need something tangible to call their own, to be passionate about, and to celebrate.  Holidays are a time of family, reflection, and provides a sense of direction. So, Kwanzaa was born!

Kwanzaa gives me, my children, and my family a sense of black pride — and, that is okay. It is a time to celebrate a rich community with a rich history and rich expectations.

The 7 Core Principles of Kwanzaa…

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

As we celebrate 50 years of Kwanzaa, my prayer is that there will be a major shift in God’s Universe and Black’s in America will begin to receive the respect and honor due to them (us) for being the prime source of labor when these United States of America was being built.

Move Forward in Righteousness XOXO♥


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