Celebrating Kwanzaa: "First Fruits"

An African-American holiday celebrating the Nguzo Saba (seven principles) and the Karamu (feast)

KWANZAA, the African-American cultural holiday conceived and developed by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga, was first celebrated on December 26, 1966.

Kwanzaa, a celebration of family, community and culture, is held December 26 through January 1, with each day focused on the Nguzo Saba (the seven principles).

Derived from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits," Kwanzaa is rooted in the first harvest celebrations practiced in various cultures in Africa.

Kwanzaa seeks to enforce a connectedness to African cultural identity, provide a focal point for the gathering of African peoples, and to reflect upon the Nguzo Saba, or the seven principles, that have sustained Africans.

Africans and African-Americans of all religious faiths and backgrounds practice Kwanzaa. By the 1990s Kwanzaa was celebrated by over 18 million blacks in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa.

The Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles) are:

Umoja - Unity
[oo MOH jah]

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

Kujichagulia - Self Determination
[KOO jee cha goo LEE ah]

To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves instead of being defined, named created and spoken for by others.

Ujima - Collective Work and Responsibility
[oo JEE mah]

To build and maintain our community together. To make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems to solve together.

Ujamaa - Cooperative Economics
[oo JAH mah]

To build and maintain our own businesses and profit together from them.

Nia - Purpose
[NEE ya]

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

Kuumba - Creativity
[koo OOM bah]

To always do as much as we can in any way that we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it.

Imani - FAITH

[ee MAH nee]

To believe with all our hearts in our GOD our people our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.


The Symbols of Kwanzaa

The symbols of Kwanzaa include:

  • The corn/crops (mzao) which represents the historical roots of African-Americans in agriculture and also the reward for collective labor.
  • The mat (mkeka) lays the foundation for self- actualization. The candle holder (kinara) reminds believers in the ancestral origins in one of 55 African countries.
  • Corn/maize (muhindi) signifies children and the hope associated in the younger generation.
  • Gifts (Zawadi) represent commitments of the parents for the children.
  • The unity cup (Kkimbe cha Umoja) is used to pour libations to the ancestors. Finally,
  • The seven candles (mishumaa saba) remind participants of the severl pinciples and the colors in flags of African liberation movements -- 3 red, 1 black, and 3 green.

The Karamu

The Kwanzaa Karumu (feast) traditionally is held on December 31. Delicious African American delicacies are prepared during the Kwanzaa feast. Traditional African, Caribbean and South American recipes add the spice.

The Karamu is a communal and cooperative effort where ceremonies and cultural expressions are highly encouraged. Prior to and during the feast, an informative and entertaining program should be presented involved a welcoming, remembering, reassessment, recommitment and rejoicing, concluded by a farewell statement and a call for greater unity.

Often those holding a Karaum will adorn the venue where it is held (e.g., home, community center, church) in an African motif that utilizes black, red, and green color scheme. And a large Kwanzaa setting should dominate the room where the karamu will take place.

Happy Kwanzaa 2012!

ladyday54 December 11, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Is there any place locally to get a Kwanza Kit?
C. Zawadi Morris December 11, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Very good question: I'm going to look into that and get back to you!
SORAYA December 27, 2012 at 12:29 AM
I purchased my kit at Zawadi on Atlantic Ave downtown brooklyn
pat December 27, 2012 at 04:38 PM
In 1971, Karenga was sentenced to one to ten years in prison on counts of felonious assault and false imprisonment.[14] One of the victims gave testimony of how Karenga and other men tortured her and another woman. The woman described having been stripped and beaten with an electrical cord. Karenga's former wife, Brenda Lorraine Karenga, testified that she sat on the other woman’s stomach while another man forced water into her mouth through a hose. A May 14, 1971, article in the Los Angeles Times described the testimony of one of the women: "Deborah Jones, who once was given the Swahili title of an African queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vise. Karenga, head of US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said. They also were hit on the heads with toasters." Karenga explained his actions by saying that one of the women he had tortured had attempted to assassinate him, but he had no evidence.
Parksloper December 28, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Amazing. Here's more: http://www.weirdrepublic.com/episode77.htm
Ko December 28, 2012 at 03:38 AM
This article is written by a man who is conservatism's "Best Kept Secret" It breeds of McCarthyism. It is not journalistic work at all. It's loaded, inflamatory, and disrespectful to the struggle of African- Americans as a whole. Only those who lack Kujichagulia would give any legitimacy to such an article.
pat December 28, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Any person with any self respect and more importantly respect for the hard working Black population of this United States would pay close attention to this article. We live in one America for all, Black, or White and this man represents the worst in human kind, period. He imprisoned Black woman and tortured them, isn't this the same topics Blacks are fighting against til this day. Wake up and call it like it is, I respect the though behind the holiday, but how can anyone follow it by the name of Kwansaa after this monster owned it. Shows lack of taste on the Patch and anyone who would support it.
Ko December 28, 2012 at 04:20 AM
I'm not sure what "Blacks" are fighting against. My guess is many blacks are fighting for various causes. I don't know what your qualifications are to define the fight of "Blacks." Second, I don't know the true story of the accounts of the incident. Everyone has an agenda, and I do not know this man personally. I will not be a slave to propaganda (Today is Kujichagulia). The article isn't put into a historical context. I do not consider the Black Panthers to be a gang. One America with many cultures that must be mutually respected. Let's respect the diversity that makes Brooklyn what it is. How can you question what tools people use (Like Kwanzaa) to protect their culture and heritage. How much energy has the detractors of Kwanzaa put into ensuring that African culture and African American history is taught in the school's curriculum to African children, so that it's no longer needed?
BRADY December 29, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Unfortunately KO, you must question the ''tools people use to protect their culture and heritage'' because iv'e heard and read and witnessed, almost verbatim, the same thing regarding the white supremist movement as well as the kkk
akyra martin January 09, 2013 at 10:45 AM
The question of criminal wrongdoing by Karenga doesn't negate the idea of Kwanzaa. A person can do a heinous thing and still also have done something good at a different time. Kwanzaa is a beautiful way for African Americans to be rooted in their heritage. Its celebration can bring family and community closer and guide them to consider and practice the principles. How can it be disputed that this is a good thing?
Parksloper January 10, 2013 at 03:41 AM
There is no question. He committed these heinous crimes. Christmas is for all who want to celebrate, it's not a white Holiday portrayed by this insane Marxist individual. From his own words : "People think its African, but it's not. I came up with Kwanzaa because black people in this country wouldn't celebrate it if they knew it was American. Also, I put it around Christmas because I knew that's when a lot of bloods would be partying. it is to nurture conditions that would enhance the revolutionary social change for the masses of Black Americans." Wise up.


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