Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Kwanzaa


The week-long holiday known as Kwanzaa (alternative spellings: Kwanza, Kwaanza) begins today, December 26 and continues to January 1. This seven days celebration was created in 1966, by Ron Karenga, the leader of the black nationalist U.S. Organization.

Originally, Ron Karenga (later known as Dr. Maulana Karenga) publicly stated that the holiday celebration was "was chosen to give a Black alternative to the existing {Christian} holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society." Proponents vehemently deny the original openly anti-Christian beginnings and stress the importance of Kwanzaa's current more universally open beliefs.

Today, many African-American families celebrate Kwanzaa along with Christmas and New Year's. Frequently, both Christmas trees and kinaras, the traditional candle holder symbolic of African-American roots, share space in kwanzaa celebrating households. To them, Kwanzaa is an opportunity to incorporate elements of their particular ethnic heritage into holiday observances and celebrations of Christmas

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, and was also an outgrowth of the black movement and its beliefs in the 1960s. As Kwanzaa gained mainstream adherents, Karenga altered his position so as not to alienate practicing Christians and thereby uniting those African-Americans who chose to celebrate both holidays.

The more unifying positive elements are "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 what he believed was "the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world."

These seven principles comprise Kawaida, Swahili term for tradition and reason:
Umoja (oo-MO-jah) Unity, Kujichagulia (koo-gee-cha-goo-LEE-yah) Self-Determination, Ujima (oo-GEE-mah) Collective Work and Cin action for communal improvement, Imani, (ee-MAH-nee) Faith in tradition, the self and their successful unification.

shown above:
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 of Kwanzaa.

1 comment:

  1. Kwanzaa has been VERY much in the news here (news story in response to complaint filed in Court last week - http://www.wmctv.com/global/story.asp?s=7543606) Thanks for a well written post!!

    ReplyDelete

Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.