In 1966, Maulana Karenga, author, and activist who was involved with the Black Power movement in the 1960s and 1970s, founded Kwanzaa. His goal was to create the first Black holiday. He said he wanted to “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday to allow Blacks to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.”
The name Kwanzaa comes from a phrase of Swahili origin, “Matunda Ya Kwanza,” and translates as “First Fruits of the Harvest.” The holiday is based on African agricultural rites and communal activities.
The Seven Principles:
· Umoja (Unity): Striving for and maintaining unity in the family and the community.
· Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): Defining oneself and speaking for oneself
· Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): Building and maintaining a community and making our brother’s and sister’s problems our own and solve them together
· Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): Building and supporting our businesses for ourselves and each other
· Nia (Purpose): To build and develop our collective communities together
· Kuumba (Creativity): To do whatever we can to leave our communities more beautiful than when we inherited them
· Imani (Faith): To believe with our hearts in our people, our families and the righteousness of our struggle
Five unknown facts about Kwanzaa
1. The founder of Kwanza was arrested and jailed on assault charges.
Maulana Karenga’s real name is Ronald McKinley Everett. He is a professor of Pan-African studies at California State University at Long Beach; the birth name was Ronald McKinley Everett. His chosen name comes from KiSwahili. Maulana meaning, “master-teacher” and Karenga means “keeper of tradition.”
In 1972, Karenga was arrested and sent to jail on charges of assault and false imprisonment. The jury found him guilty after two women testified that Karenga and his followers tortured them. These two women were members of the US (United Slaves), a black nationalist cult he had founded. Karenga spent just four years in prison.
2. According to the Daily Caller, Members of Karenga’s US Organization murdered two Black Panthers in cold blood. The murders occurred in 1969 when the US Organization and the Black Panthers were fighting over which group would control the then-new Afro-American Studies Center at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
3. Homemade and educational gifts are encouraged.
Gifts are handed out to family members on the last day of Kwanzaa are often homemade. Some buy cultural themed products or books, music, art accessories, or other culturally themed products, but it’s preferred that participates buy from a black-owned business.
4.The first US postage stamp to commemorate Kwanzaa was issued in 1997. There have been 5 designs released since then, the most recent being in 2016.
5.Only thirteen percent of black Americans celebrate this holiday. According to the National Retail Foundation found that just 13 percent or 4.7 million Black Americans observe the holiday.
6. Kwanzaa is not celebrated in African. However, “Kwanzaa,” is taken from “matunda ya kwanza,” which is Swahili (East African coast) for “first fruits.” Dr. Karenga combined several different African harvest celebrations, including traditions of the Ashanti in Northwest Africa and the Zulu in South Africa.