The Inner Path: The Spirit of #Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa honors African heritage in African-American culture, and is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a feast and gift-giving. It was created by Maulana Karenga, and was first celebrated in 1966–67.  The word Kwanzaa derived from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” and is celebrated with the 7 core principles of  Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. The greeting for each day of Kwanzaa is Habari Gani?, which is Swahili for “What’s the News?” and you will in turn respond with the particular principle for that day; Umoja, Kujichagulia, etc. The core principles
dedicated to Kwanzaa comprise Kawaida, a Swahili term meaning tradition and reason and are explain below.

 The 7 Social and Spiritual Principles of Kwanzaa

  1. UMOJA (UNITY)(oo-MOE-jah). Celebrated on day one. This principle teaches striving for and maintaining unity in the family, community, nation, and race. 
  2. KUJICHAGULIA (SELF DETERMINATION) (koo-jee-cha-goo-LEE-ah). Celebrated on day two. It is a principle that teaches defining oneself, naming oneself, creating for oneself, and speaking for oneself. 
  3. UJIMA (COLLECTIVE WORK and RESPONSIBILITY) (oo-JEE-mah). This principle is celebrated on day three, and teaches building and maintaining the community together, recognizing others problems as our own, and solving those problems together.  
  4. UJAMAA (COOPERATIVE ECONOMICS)(oo-JAH-mah) Practiced on day four, this principle teaches building and maintaining African American stores, shops and other businesses and profiting together from them. 
  5. NIA (PURPOSE)(nee-AH). This principle is practiced on day five. It is a principle that encourages the collective effort of building and developing the community in order to restore African Americans to their traditional greatness.  
  6. KUUMBA (CREATIVITY)(koo-OOM-bah). Practiced on day six, this principle emphasizes doing the best you can and as much as you can always to to make your community better than when it was first inherited. 
  7. IMANI (FAITH) (ee-MAH-nee). On day seven, this principle serves as a reminder to believe in the African American culture, family, community, and in oneself.

Kwanzaa symbols include a decorative mat on which other symbols are placed, corn and other crops, a candle holder with seven candles, called a kinara, a communal cup for pouring libations, gifts, a poster of the seven principles, and a black, red, and green flag. The symbols were designed to convey the seven principles. 

Today, Kwanzaa is recognized by millions throughout America and the world. It is celebrated often in community settings provided by homes, churches, mosques, temples, community centers, schools, and places of work. Kwanzaa allows us to celebrate the season without shame or fear of embracing our history, our culture, and ourselves. It’s a spiritual, festive and joyous celebration of the oneness and goodness of life and can be celebrated by anyone, all religions and non-religious alike.

So break out the Caftans, Dashikis, the harvest, and watch the movie documentary The Black Candle, a film about Kwanzaa, narrated by Maya Angelou in 1999.

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