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Heri Za Kwanzaa! Happy Kwanzaa!

by Tamar ‘Kush’ Francis

Many of us have heard of Kwanzaa, but are unsure of what it is. Some common beliefs is that it is ‘Rasta Christmas’, or that it is religion based, both of which are untrue.

The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phase “matunda ya kwanza” which means first fruits in Swahili. Kwanzaa is celebrated for seven days, from December 26th to Jan 1st with each day having it’s own principle to acknowledge. These principles are known as the ‘Nguzo Saba’. On each of the seven nights a candle is lit, and the principal of the day is discussed as a family.

Kwanzaa is a holiday celebrated by many Pan African brothers and sisters worldwide because it brings a cultural message which speaks of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. It is engaged as an ancient and living cultural tradition which reflects the best of African thought and practice in its reaffirmation of the dignity of the human person in community and culture, the well being of family and community, the integrity of the environment and our kinship with it and the rich resource and meaning of a people’s culture.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are:

1)       Umoja ( oo mo jah)/ UNITY – to strive and maintain unity in the family, commiuty, nation and race.

2)       Kujichagulia ( koo-gee-cha-goo-lee-a)/ SELF DETERMINATION- to define ourselves, name ourselves, create ourselves and speak for ourselves.

3)       Ujima ( oo-gee-ma)/ COLLECTIVE WORK AND RESPONSIBILITY- to build and mainatain our community together and make our brothers and sister problems our problems and solve them together.

4)       Ujamaa (oo-jah-mah)/COOPERATIVE ECONOMICS- to build and maintain our owns shops and other businesses and profit from them together.

5)       Nia (nee-yah) PURPOSE- to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

6)       Kuumba (koo-oom-bah)/CREATIVITY- 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.

7)       Imani (ee-mah-nee)/FAITH- to believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Why not incorporate Kwanzaa into your families festive celebrations this year?

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