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ConardIn the wake of the rising re-emergence of the Black Student Movement in America, it is important that every segment of the African Community in America begin preparing for the Kwanzaa Season. It is estimated that more than 30 million Africans in America participate in some sort of Kwanzaa activity or event.

In order for this occurrence to continue, parents, teachers, principals, ministers, business people and community activists must begin preparation immediately. The first question that obviously should be asked in preparation for the 53rd Kwanzaa Season is: “What is Kwanzaa, and why is it so important for African people in America to celebrate?”

In 1966, the Black Power explosion shook up America. The call for Black Power was a major shift away from the Civil Rights Movement during that era. This was a movement that successfully dismantled the system of racial segregation (by law) in the southern region of the United States.

However, among the masses of Black people in America, there was a deeper meaning to the idea of freedom, justice and equality that had not been advocated by the Civil Rights Movement. The call for Black Power by Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Kwame Ture (a.k.a. Stokely Carmichael) and others gave a new impetus for the Black Liberation Movement in America.

When the smoke cleared from the Watts Rebellion in 1965, an organization emerged in the Los Angeles, California area called US. Its leader was Dr. Maulana Karenga. After intense study of African cultural traditions, Dr. Karenga and the US Organization established the only nationally celebrated, indigenous, non-heroic Black Holiday in the United States and they called it Kwanzaa.

The concept of Kwanzaa was established for Africans in America and was derived from the African custom of celebrating the harvest season.

In Dr. Karenga’ s own words he says, “The origin of Kwanzaa on the African continent are in the agricultural celebrations called the ‘first fruits’ celebrations and to a lesser degree the full or general harvest celebration. It is from these first fruit celebrations that Kwanzaa gets its name which comes from the Swahili phrase Matunda Ya Kwanza.”

Further, “…Matunda means fruits and ya Kwanza means first. (The extra “a” at the end of Kwanzaa has become convention as a result of a particular history).”

Kwanzaa is officially celebrated December 26th to January 1st, and each day a value of the Nguzo Saba (seven principles of Blackness) is celebrated. The Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles) are:

Umoja – Unity – To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

Kujichagulia – Self Determination – To define ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves, instead of being defined, named, created for, and spoken for by others.

Ujima – Collective Work and Responsibility – To build and maintain our community together, to make our sisters and brothers 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 as 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 when we inherited it.

lmani – Faith – To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Over the last fifty plus years, through the organizing of community-based Pan-African/Nationalist organizations, Kwanzaa has become institutionalized throughout the African American communities in the United States and the African Diaspora.

Kwanzaa is a way to help African people in America fulfill the need and desire to be a united people, with a common set of experiences that lead us toward a common set of goals and objectives for freedom, independence, and liberation.

Dr. Conrad Worrill, Professor Emeritus, Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies (CCICS). New office location is at 1809 E. 71st Street, Chicago, Illinois 60649, 773-592-2598. Email: [email protected] Website:

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