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Kwanzaa, is an annual holiday affirming African family and social values that is celebrated primarily in the 

United States from December 26 to January 1. Both the name and the celebration were devised in 1966 by 

Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana studies at California State University in Long Beach and an

important figure in Afrocentrism. Karenga borrowed the word kwanza, meaning “first,” from the Swahili

phrase matunda ya kwanza, adding the seventh letter, an extra a, to make the word long enough to

accommodate one letter for each of the seven children present at an early celebration. (The name

Kwanzaa is not itself a Swahili word.) The concept of Kwanzaa draws on Southern African first-fruit



The seven principles or Nguzo Saba are a set of ideals created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Each day of

Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle. The candle-lighting ceremony each evening provides the

opportunity to gather and discuss the meaning of Kwanzaa. On the first night, the black candle in the

center is lit (and the principle of umoja/unity is discussed). One candle is lit each evening and the appropriate principle is discussed.



 The seven principles, or Nguzo Saba are a set of ideals created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Each day of Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle.


  1. Unity: Umoja (oo–MO–jah) To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race. 

   2. Self-determination: Kujichagulia (koo–gee–cha–goo–LEE–yah) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

                                                                                           3. Collective Work and Responsibility: Ujima (oo–GEE–mah) To build and maintain our community                                                                                                           together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.

                                                                                           4. Cooperative Economics: Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah) To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and                                                                                                    other businesses and to profit from them together.

                                                                                           5. Purpose: Nia (nee–YAH) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our                                                                                                                community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.                                                                  

                                                                                           6. Creativity: Kuumba (koo–OOM–bah) 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. Faith: Imani (ee–MAH–nee) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our                                                                                                 leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.


                                                                                                          Excreted from the book: The Complete Kwanzaa Celebrating Our Cultural Harvest.                                                                                                                                                                           Copyright 1995 by Dorothy Winbush Riley. 

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