12/26 – Kwanzaa

A Kwanzaa display in an American home. (Flickr)

On this day in 1966, the very first Kwanzaa was celebrated in the United States. The holiday – a weeklong tradition celebrating faith, community and heritage – was created by Black Power activist Maulana Karenga in order to help African-Americans reconnect with their roots and foster a stronger sense of community. During the holiday, one day is dedicated to each of the seven principles of Kawaida, or common:

  • Umoja (Unity)
  • Kujichagulia (Self-determination)
  • Ujima (Collective responsibility)
  • Ujimaa (Cooperative economics)
  • Nia (Purpose)
  • Kuumba (Creativity)
  • Imani (Faith)

Kwanzaa was an important part of the Black Nationalist Movement in the 1960s and 1970s because, according to Karenga “…you must have a cultural revolution before the violent revolution. The cultural revolution gives identity, purpose, and direction.” Kwanzaa (which comes from the Swahili for “first fruits of the harvest”) was at first proposed as an alternative to Christmas or Hanukkah, but today is often celebrated alongside other holidays by many Black Americans.

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