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Kwanzaa: 6 Unknown Facts

Kwanzaa: 6 Unknown Facts


Tellers Untold Podcast about Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa: The Founder

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.

When is it celebrated?

The event lasts one week (December 26th–January 1st), with a feast called Karamu being held on the sixth night.

Families celebrate Kwanzaa for the entire week by meeting, exchanging gifts, and lighting candles in honor of their forefathers and wishes for the future.

Who celebrates Kwanzaa?

African-Americans in the United States mostly celebrate the holiday.

Six Unknown Facts About Kwanzaa
2003 Kwanzaa celebration with Founder, Ronald Karenga. Wikipedia.

Kwanzaa: 6 unknown facts

 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; his birth name was Ronald McKinley Everett. His chosen name comes from KiSwahili. Maulana means, “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. They 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.


How to celebrate Kwanzaa

Many individuals celebrate Kwanzaa by using African art and the traditional Kwanzaa colors of green, black, and red to decorate their homes.

They may dress in traditional African garb, and this is a dashiki, just like ours. They may also wear a Kufi, which is a type of hat.

A kaftan is a colorful wrap used by women. Families frequently assemble for a massive feast known as karamu on the last day of Kwanzaa. Karamu is sometimes held at a local church or community center.


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


There are seven symbols that people gather for the ceremonies. 

Unity Cup. Kikombe cha Umoja (Kee-com-bay chah-oo-moe-jah)

The Unity Cup represents Kwanzaa’s fundamental principle: the unity of family and the African people. The libation (water, juice, or wine) is poured into the cup for family and guests.

The candle holder. Kinara (Kee-nah-rah)

The candle holder is symbolic of the original stalk from which all African ancestors descended, and it’s where the seven candles sit.

The seven candles. Mishumaa (Mee-shoo-maah)

Each of the seven principles represents a candle. The red, green, and black candles represent the African people and their struggles.

Fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Mazao (Maah-zow) 

These items commemorate traditional African harvest festivities and pay homage to those who toiled to produce them.

Corn. Muhindi (Moo-heen-dee) 

The corn symbolizes African children and the hope of a brighter future. Each child in the family receives one ear of corn, and one ear is laid out symbolically to represent the community’s children in a family without children.

Gifts. Zawadi (Sah-wah-dee) 

The gifts signify the parents’ labor and their children’s rewards. A book, a work of art, or an educational item may present a gift to educate and enhance the children. At least one of the gifts is a representation of African ancestry.

A mat. Mkeka (M-kay-cah) 

The mat (usually made of straw, but it can also be made of fabric or paper) upon which all the other Kwanzaa symbols are placed. The mat represents the foundation of African traditions and history.



Work Cited
Afrocentrism – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afrocentrism
Kwanzaa in 2019/2020 – When, Where, Why, How is Celebrated?. https://www.holidayscalendar.com/event/kwanzaa/
5 Things You May Not Know About Kwanzaa – HISTORY. https://www.history.com/news/5-things-you-may-not-know-about-kwanzaa


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