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Kwanzaa yenu iwe na heri!*

Posted Jan 11 2009 5:44pm

There is a "real" blog entry closer to the bottom of this post. If you don't have the time (or the desire) to learn more about Kwanzaa, be sure to skip to the end to read the post. Happy New Year!

 What Kwanzaa is not

  • political
  • religious
  • only for people of African descent

What Kwanzaa is: The concept of Kwanzaa was developed by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. Though the holiday is relatively new, its roots are grounded firmly in centuries-old African culture and customs. Dr. Karenga based Kwanzaa upon the premice of Kawaida - "...that social revolutionary change for Black America can be achieved by the act of revealing and disclosing individuals to their cultural African heritage."

Though Kwanzaa was first to be celebrated only by African-Americans and is still primarily celebrated by Black community, today the message of Kwanzaa is expanded to be inclusive of all cultures. No matter the heritage, we are interrelated through our common society and Kwanzaa's Seven Principles are tenets for all to endear and promote unity among us.

Click the stamp below to watch a short video on about the origins and evolution of this holiday (wait through the 30 second advertisement; it's worth it):

Kwanzaa stamp
Click the 1997 Kwanzaa stamp above to view the video.

The Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa

  • Kinara (the candleholder): supports the Mishumaa Saba and symbolizes our roots - continental Africans
  • Mishumaa Saba (the Seven Candles): These are symbolic of the Nguzo Saba. The colors of red, black, and green are symbolic - red for the blood of the people and their past struggles, black for the color of the people and their present, and green for the color of the land (Africa) and their future. On the first night of Kwanzaa, the black candle is lit. On the second through seventh nights of Kwanzaa, additional candles are lit alternating red and green.
  • Kikombe cha Umoja (the Unity Cup): reinforces unity. It is used during the karamu Tambiko cha Umoja (Libation Statement). Each family member takes a sip from the Unity Cup and some of the drink is poured in out in honor of ancestors and family members who have passed away.
  • mkeka (mat): the base on which the other Kwanzaa symbols are placed. It is symbolic of tradition and history, which is the foundation upon which we build.
  • mazao (crops): fruits, vegetables, and nuts which are used to represent African harvest celebrations and the rewards of productive and collective labor
  • muhindi (corn): symbolic of our children and our future which they embody. Even if there are no children physically present in the home, muhindi is still placed on the mkeka. This reinforces the African belief that all adults are collectively responsible for children. It takes a village...
  • zawadi (gifts): usually books and crafts given to children; these are symbolic of the labor of love of parents and the commitments made and kept by the children.

The Mishumaa Saba - The Seven Principles

Nguzo saba

  • Umoja(Unity) To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
  • Kujichagulia(Self-Determination) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima(Collective Work and Responsibility) To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (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.
  • Imani (Faith) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

During the week of Kwanzaa, be the first person to use the greeting "Habari gani?" which, loosely translated, means "What's the news?" The proper response is the principle assigned to that particular day.


Tonight is the karamu. We've f easted on soul food: fried chicken wings, collard greens, hoppin' john and rice, macaroni and cheese, and corn bread. We remembered our loved ones who have passed on and celebrate our future in honor of them.

As  I previously explained, during the karamu we recite the names of those who've passed on. In this space, I want to say the names of babies who left this world much too early to honor them and the parents and families who love them.

Artemis & Apollo
L, A, M, and B

Note: I began with bloggers with whom I have had some degree of personal contact and who I read regularly. I know that many of you who I do read regularly have also experienced losses (of any nature) or I may have inadvertently left off a name (I apologize). If you would like to, you are welcome to leave words of remembrance or names of any loved ones in the comments. If you'd like for me to include the names in the main post, please let me know and I will add them.

We remember, and you are loved.


Kwanzaa - we look retrospectively, then rejoice in the present with hope and faith for the future.
While it's not anything that can be considered even remotely Afrocentric, we dance for you. We dance for what was bright of 2008 (however great or small) and for the potential brightness of 2009. Our message to you - jump on it. Jump on it and ride 2009 for everything it's worth. No matter what 2008 had in store, I hope that 2009 is better. If the year doesn't give you what you want, go out screaming and kicking its ass. I know I will.


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