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Publish 12/02/2019 | Reading Time 

By BWSTimes Staff

Are you planning to celebrate Kwanzaa this year, or at least learn about the African-American founded holiday?

Here are a few things to consider: 

The word Kwanzaa is a phrase that derives from an expression Swahili people of South African use and literally means “first fruits of the harvest.” The word is originally spelled with one ‘A’ at the end ‘Kwanza’; however, the additional ‘A’ was added, so the number of letters in the word Kwanzaa matched the seven days of that Kwanzaa is practiced.   

Social and pan-African activist Maulana Karenga founded this unique African diasporan holiday to help Black people, living throughout the Americas, reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage. 

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The Kwanzaa holiday was born during the ’60s and was inspired by Umkhosi Woselwa, an annual Zulu festival. 

Celebrations for Kwanzaa begin at the end of December to the first day of January. 

  • Umoja (Unity) December 26th: To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race. 
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) December 27th: To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) December 28th: To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) December 29th: To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose) December 30th: To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (Creativity) December 31st: 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) January 1st: To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Kwanzaa is observed by using kinara, a Swahili word that means candle holder. Seven candles are placed in the kinara: three red (on the left), three green (on the right), and a single black candle that’s placed in the center. The candles are called the Mishumaa, which means seven candles. Additional decor includes Mahini, which means corn and a kikombe cha umoja or a unity cup for commemorating and giving “shukrani,” which means thanks to African ancestors. These ceremonial items can be displayed on a kente cloth on a table or cabinet.

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