What is Kwanzaa? Why do we celebrate? And is this holiday too deeply rooted in African culture that only African Americans can or should celebrate?
Have any of these questions crossed your mind? If so, let’s blabb about it….
Just as a point of historical reference, during the 1960’s African Americans began reaching back to tie the lost cultural roots of traditional African communities embracing self awareness and empowerment…thus founding Kwanzaa, which is the only nationally celebrated, native, non religious or political African American holiday.
The Kwanzaa holiday is observed from December 26th through January 1st and its’ focus is to pay tribute to the rich cultural roots of the People of the African Diaspora. It is strongly rooted in cultural awareness and it reinforces personal growth and achievements. Kwanzaa is now a 45 year old celebration and tradition yet the principles are still relevant to African Americans today; particularly young African American children.
The principles are:
1. Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
3. 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.
4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
5. Nia (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 (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 (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
With this celebration commencing at the last week of the year, it allows us the opportunity to reflect and re-affirm our goals, add some clarity or tweak our perspectives and/or re-define, but performing the traditional ceremony is where I struggle…Many African Americans are still “ignorant” to African tribal and cultural traditions. It is piece of culture that is 10 times removed and not easy to plug back in… I realize that one of the very purposes of this celebration is to continuously introduce, reinforce and cultivate an appreciation for African culture through these principles, but when many African Americans speak of celebrating Kwanzaa (in the true spirit upon which is was found) it feels like lip service to a culture and traditions we really don’t fully understand and/or appreciate.
But in every effort to be the all around culturally in-tune African American family, you go out and buy all the necessary items, invite your friends and family over, recite the principles, light the candles, spread the kente clothe and exchange the gifts……
Is practicing this celebration really preserving African communitarian values? Or are we just going through the motions at home or in public for the sake of saying we celebrated Kwanzaa and on January 2nd we forget we lit those (7) candles?
So I ask this question, giving all do respect to Dr. Maulana Karenga, is Kwanzaa too deeply rooted in African culture? Is the way in which we celebrate and honor the principles relatable (we agree that they are relevant) 45 years later? Should the Kwanzaa celebration be redefined to keep the principles of Kwanzaa relevant and consistent in our daily lives after January 1st?
What do you think? Blabb Back…