Happy Kwanzaa - 1998
"I've added this song to launch my sister blogg on January 1st 2008 'Ebony Events' it will have black history set out on 365 day event calender." - Mickey (PCRL) [cancelled 1/2/08]
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 26th. to January 1st. 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 (pictured), 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. According to African American leader Al Sharpton, Kwanzaa was created to "de-whitize" Christmas.
In 1966 Karenga created Kwanzaa while living in California. There, he was the leader of the black nationalist US Organization and he claims that his goal was to give an alternative holiday to Christmas. In Karenga's words "The Christian is our worse enemy. Quiet as it's kept, it was a Christian who enslaved us. Quiet as it's kept it's a Christian who burns us. Quiet as it's kept it's a Christian who beats us down on the street; and quiet as it's kept when the thing goes down it'll be a Christian that's shooting us down. You have to face the fact that if the Christian is doing all this there must be something wrong with Christanity." He later stated, "...it was chosen to give a Black alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society." At the time he created Kwanzaa, he changed his last name from Everett to the Gikuyu "Karenga", shaved his head, and began wearing traditional African clothing.
The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza", meaning "first fruits". The choice of Swahili, an East African language, reflects its status as a symbol of Pan-Africanism, especially in the 1960s, though most African-Americans have West African ancestry. Karenga stated "People think it's African, but it's not. I came up with Kwanzaa because Black people wouldn't celebrate it if they knew it was American. Also I put it next to Christmas because I knew that's when a lot of Bloods would be partying"
The official stance on the spelling of the holiday is that an additional "a" was added to "Kwanza" so that the word would have seven letters. At the time there were seven children in Karenga's US Organization, each wanted to represent one of the letters in Kwanzaa Also, the name was meant to have a letter for each of what Karenga called the "Seven Principles of Blackness". Another explanation is that Karenga added the extra "a" to distinguish the African-American meaning from the African one. Kwanzaa is also sometimes incorrectly spelled "kwaanza".
Kwanzaa is a celebration that has its roots in the black nationalist movement of the 1960s, and was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with what Karenga characterized as their African cultural and historical heritage by uniting in meditation and study around principles that have their putative origins in what Karenga asserts are "African traditions" and "common humanist principles."
In 1967, a year after Karenga proposed this new holiday, he publicly espoused the view that "Jesus was psychotic" and that Christianity was a white religion that blacks should shun. However, as Kwanzaa gained mainstream adherents, Karenga altered his position so as not to alienate practicing Christians, then stating in the 1997 Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture, "Kwanzaa was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday."
Also in 1997, the first Kwanzaa stamp was issued by the United States Postal Service on October 22 at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, California. In 2004 a second Kwanzaa stamp, created by artist Daniel Minter was issued which has seven figures in colorful robes symbolizing the seven principles.ONSELECTSTART="return false"
Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called "The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa", or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba - "The Seven Principles of Blackness"), which Karenga said "is a communitarian African philosophy" consisting of Karenga's distillation of what he deemed "the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world." These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason that Karenga used to refer to his synthesized system of belief. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, which are explained by Karenga as follows (one for each date):
- Umoja (Unity) 26th December - To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
- Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) 27th December - To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
- Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) 28th December - To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.
- Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) 29th December - To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
- Nia (Purpose) 30th December - To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
- Kuumba (Creativity) 31st December - 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 (Faith) 1st January - To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle. These principles correspond to Karenga's notion that "the sevenfold path of blackness is think black, talk black, act black, create black, buy black, vote black, and live black."