Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Joyous Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a Celebration of Family, Community & Culture
Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, but a cultural one with an inherent spiritual quality as with all major African celebrations. It does not necessarily substitute for any religious holiday, like Christmas.

December 26 -- January 1

41st Annual Kwanzaa Celebration
Theme -- 2007:
"Kwanzaa and the Seven Principles :
Willing the Well-Being of the World"

-Dr. Maulana Karenga, Creator of Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa (or Kwaanza) is a week-long Pan-African festival celebrated primarily in the United States, honoring African American heritage. It is observed from December 26 to January 1 each year.

Kwanzaa consists of seven days of celebration, featuring activities such as candle-lighting and pouring of libations, and culminating in a feast and gift giving. It was created by Ron Karenga (aka Maulana Karenga, or Ron Everett), and first celebrated from December 26, 1966, to January 1, 1967, timed to coincide with Christmas so that it would be remembered. Karenga calls Kwanzaa the African American branch of "first fruits" celebrations of classical African cultures.

Kwanzaa was created to reaffirm the communitarian vision and values of African culture and to contribute to its restoration among African peoples in the Diaspora, beginning with Africans in America and expanding to include the world African community.

THERE IS NO WAY TO UNDERSTAND and appreciate the meaning and message of Kwanzaa without understanding and appreciating its profound and pervasive concern with values. In fact. Kwanzaa's reason for existence, its length of seven days, its core focus and its foundation are all rooted in its concern with values. Kwanzaa inherits this value concern and focus from Kawaida, the African philosophical framework in which it was created. Kawaida philosophy is a communitarian African philosophy which is an ongoing synthesis of the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.

The Nguzo Saba - The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa

(The Seven Principles)
Kwanzaa Symbol - Umoja (unity)
Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
Kwanzaa symbol- Kujichagulia (self-determination
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
Kwanzaa Symbol - Ujima (collective work and responsibility)
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.
Kwanzaa Symbol - Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Kwanzaa symbols - Nia (purpose)
Nia (Purpose)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kwanzaa symbol - Kuumba (Creativity)
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.
Kwanzaa symbol - Imani (faith)
Imani (Faith)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

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 (The Crops)
These are symbolic of African harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor.

Mkeka (The Mat)
This is symbolic of our tradition and history and therefore, the foundation on which we build.

Kinara (The Candle Holder)
This is symbolic of our roots, our parent people -- continental Africans.

Muhindi (The Corn)
This is symbolic of our children and our future which they embody.

Mishumaa Saba (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 (The Unity Cup)
This is symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity which makes all else possible.

Zawadi (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)

The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green; black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle. Therefore there is one black candle, three red and three green candles. These are the mishumaa saba (the seven candles) and they represent the seven principles. The black candle represents the first principle Umoja (unity) and is placed in the center of the kinara. The red candles represent the principles of Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujamaa (cooperative economics) and Kuumba (creativity) and are placed to the left of the black candle. The green candles represent the principles of Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Nia (purpose) and Imani (faith) and are placed to the right of the black candle. The black candle is lit first on the first day of the celebration. And the remaining candles are lit afterwards from left to right on the following days. This procedure is to indicate that the people come first, then the struggle and then the hope that comes from the struggle.

The word "Kwanzaa" comes from the phrase, "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first-fruits." Kwanzaa's extra "a" evolved as a result of a particular history of the Organization Us. It was clone as an expression of African values in order to inspire the creativity of our children. In the early days of Us, there were seven children who each wanted to represent a letter of Kwanzaa. Since kwanza (first) has only six letters, we added an extra "a" to make it seven, thus creating "Kwanzaa."

Kwanzaa is clearly an African holiday created for African peoples. But other people can and do celebrate it, just like other people participate in Cinco de Mayo besides Mexicans; Chinese New Year besides Chinese; Native American pow wows besides Native Americans.

Official Kwanzaa website, from the creator of Kwanzaa

The following video is a parody and is not being posted to offend anyone. (NSFW)

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