Today is the first day of the week long celebration of Kwanzaa. It is a Pan-African holiday based on seven principles with seven main symbols that is celebrated for seven days starting December 26. A candle representing each principle is lit daily starting with the black candle in the center which represents umoja [OO-MO-JAH], unity.
Nguzo Saba [IN-GOO-ZO SAH-BAH] - The Seven Principles
Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce seven basic values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing family, community and culture among African American people as well as Africans throughout the world African community. These values are called the Nguzo Saba which in Swahili means the Seven Principles. Developed in 1966, by Dr. Maulana Karenga, the Nguzo Saba stand at the heart of the origin and meaning of Kwanzaa, for it is these values which are not only the building blocks for community but also serve to reinforce and enhance them.
Umoja [OO-MO-JAH] (Unity) - To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, race.
Kujichagulia [KOO-JEE-CHA-GOO-LEE-YAH] (Self-Determination) - To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves instead of being defined, named, created for and spoken for by others.
Ujima [OO-JEE-MAH] (Collective Work & Responsibility) - To build and maintain our community together and make our sisters' and brothers' problems our problems and solve them together.
Ujamaa [OO-JAH-MAH] (Cooperative Economics) - To build and maintain our own stores and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Nia [NEE-YAH] (Purpose) - To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba [KOO-OOM-BAH] (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 [EE-MAH-NEE] (Faith) - To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
The Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols and two supplemental ones. Each represents values and concepts reflective of African culture and contributive to community building and reinforcement. The basic symbols in Swahili and then in English are:
Mazao [MAH-ZAH-O](The Crops)
These are symbolic of African harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor.
Mkeka [EM-KAY-KAH](The Mat)
This is symbolic of our tradition and history and therefore, the foundation on which we build.
Kinara [KEE-NAH-RAH] (The Candle Holder)
This is symbolic of our roots, our parent people -- continental Africans.
Muhindi [MOO-HEEN-DEE] (The Corn) This is symbolic of our children and our future which they embody.
Mishumaa Saba [MEE-SHOO-MAH-AH SAH-BAH] (The Seven Candles) These are symbolic of the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles, the matrix and minimum set of values which African people are urged to live by in order to rescue and reconstruct their lives in their own image and according to their own needs.
Kikombe cha Umoja [KEE-KOHM-BAY CHAH OO-MO-JAH] (The Unity Cup) This is symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity which makes all else possible.
Zawadi [ZAH-WAH-DEE] (The Gifts) These are symbolic of the labor and love of parents and the commitments made and kept by the children.
The two supplemental symbols are:
Bendera (The Flag) The colors of the Kwanzaa flag are the colors of the Organization Us, black, red and green; black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle. It is based on the colors given by the Hon. Marcus Garvey as national colors for African people throughout the world.
Nguzo Saba Poster (Poster of The Seven Principles)
Kwanzaa is not anti-Christmas neither is it the black Christmas or the black Hanukkah. Kwanzaa is a non-religious and non-political holiday. It can be celebrated with family and friends of different religious practices and beliefs. Kwanzaa is celebrated for one week of the year but practiced all year-long.
The current sociological and political atmosphere in the United States makes adopting a Kwanzaa lifestyle a matter of survival for black people. Advocating for black communities, supporting black businesses and supporting black schools is imperative as more and more safety net programs are cut as well as quality public education opportunities.