Let’s Bring Back Kwanzaa

Does anyone celebrate Kwanzaa anymore? Do we even remember the significance of Kwanzaa? This year, on its 50th anniversary, I am making the decision to celebrate Kwanzaa. Here’s why:

       With all of the race related tension that has been sparked recently, I for one have suffered racial trauma that has left me beyond fatigued. One of the ways that I am able to heal is by delving deeper into my African American heritage. In a time where there is so much division and hate, I think it is time to reflect on where we came from and how we plan to move forward as a people. The principles of Kwanzaa have the potential to be first steps toward nation building. The celebration of Kwanzaa can help us come together as African Americans to heal, progress, and thrive together.

      In order to embrace Kwanzaa once again, we need to be clear on what Kwanzaa is and why we celebrate it. First let’s dispel some myths about Kwanzaa.

Myth: Kwanzaa is a religion
Truth: Kwanzaa is not a religion it is actually a cultural holiday

Myth: Kwanzaa is “Black Christmas”
Truth:  Kwanzaa is not a substitute for Christmas or any other religious holiday, once again it is a cultural holiday

Myth: Kwanzaa is an African tradition
Truth: Kwanzaa is actually an African American tradition

Myth: Kwanzaa is a pagan holiday
Truth: Kwanzaa was not made to involve worship of any kind, it involves practices made for us to reflect on our values and to come together as people of African descent in the United States.

      One disclaimer I need to add is that this holiday can be influenced by the choices of the people who practice it, just like any other holiday. It can be a wonderful cultural celebration that unites us or people can use it to worship idols and twist the meaning to fit their own agenda just how many have done with Christmas. I choose to see this holiday for the potential it has to bring us together and strengthen us as a people.

      Now that it’s clear what Kwanzaa is not, let’s talk about what it is all about! Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Kwanzaa is a seven-day African American holiday that begins on December 26th and ends on January 1st with the purpose of celebrating family, community, and culture. The holiday is made for families and communities to come together to reflect and recommit to the seven principles of Kwanzaa. One of the seven principles of Kwanzaa is the focus of each day of the holiday.

The Seven Principles are:

Day 1. Umoja: Unity

Day 2. Kujichagulia: Self-determination

Day 3. Ujima: Collective work and Responsibility

Day 4. Ujamaa: Cooperative economics and supporting each other

Day 5. Nia: Purpose

Day 6. Kuumba: Creativity

Day 7. Imani: Faith

     I am excited to find ways to recommit to these principles and I plan to continue to celebrate this holiday with my family and friends for years to come! I think it may be just what we need in the African American community to re-calibrate and to heal together.

Action Steps: I challenge you to think about ways you can include these principles into your life as well as consider the possible value of perpetuating these principles among your family, friends, and community. 

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