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Understanding Kwanzaa |

Since its inception in 1966, Kwanzaa has been a weeklong celebration in the United States. Held from December 26 to January 1, it honors the history, heritage and faith of women, men and children of African descent. It is marked by participants lighting the kinara (African inspired candle holder), pouring libations, partaking in a communal feast and exchanging gifts. Dr. Maulana Karenga, a pioneering professor of Black Studies at California State University at Long Beach, first created the weeklong festival from December 26, 1966 to January 1, 1967.

Sweet Magnolia incorporates the Nguzo Saba into the life of the Church.  We focus the attention on our recognition that every good thing comes from the Lord; and we have a responsibility to God to return to God what is his, and a responsibility to each other to use the bounties and blessings from God for the good of and to build up others.


The Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa) are:

  1. Umoja (unity),

  2. Kujichagulia (self-determination),

  3. Ujima (collective work and responsibility),

  4. Ujamaa (cooperative economics),

  5. Nia (purpose),

  6. Kuumba (creativity) and

  7. Imani (faith)

This was an historic event because it represents the first occurrence of a holiday specifically focused on African American history and heritage in United States history. Karenga said his goal was to "give an alternative to the existing holiday and give an opportunity to celebrate ourselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society." Kwanzaa has been observed annually and has gained a considerable amount of mainstream recognition in American society.

The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanzaa, meaning "first fruits of the harvest." According to Karenga, Kwanzaa was envisioned as being directly opposed to the gaudy commercialization of Christmas by providing an Afrocentric alternative to "European cultural accretions of Santa Claus, reindeer, mistletoe, frantic shopping, [and] alienated gift-giving." At its essential core, Kwanzaa was devised deliberately as a countercultural celebration of pan-African values, virtues, and views through a coordinated celebration of self-definition, self-determination, and solidarity for women, men, and children of African descent.


Enhancing Knowledge of Kwanzaa |

  1. Karenga, Maulana. Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture. Los Angeles, CA: University of Sankore Press, 2008.  Online location: accessed 1 January 2010

  2. Riley, Dorothy W. The Complete Kwanzaa: Celebrating Our Cultural Harvest. Castle Books, 2003.

  3. Katz, Karen. My First Kwanzaa. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Co., 2003.

  4. Mayes, Keith A. Kwanzaa: Black Power and the Making of the African-American Holiday Tradition. New York and London:Routledge, 2009.

  5. The African American Holiday of Kwanzaa. Videocassette. Los Angeles, CA: University of Sankore Press. Online location: www.sankorepress.comaccessed 1 January 2010.

  6. “Nguzo Saba: The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa.” Online location: accessed 1 January 2010

  7. “A Kwanzaa Keepsake.” Online location: 1 January 2010

  8. Melanet's Kwanzaa Information Center.

  9. The Official Kwanzaa Web Site. Online location: accessed 1 January 2010

  10. Kwanzaa! African Lives in a New World Festival. AALBC recommended book. Online location:!.htm accessed 1 January 2010



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