The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa

Yesterday (December 26th) marked the beginning of the Kwanzaa celebration. These next six days will serve as a time for African Americans to gather and celebrate African heritage and African American culture with friends and family. Festivities will continue through January 1st.

Kwanzaa was founded by Dr. Maulana Kerenga in 1966 during the Black Freedom Movement. The name Kwanzaa originates from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. The holiday was created with three objectives: to reaffirm and strengthen the roots between African Americans and African culture, strengthen the bond between Africans as a people, and reinforce Nguzo Saba also known as the seven principles. These core principles are as followed:

  1. Umoja- Unity: To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  2. Kulichagulia- 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 to make our Brother’s and sister’s 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Kuumba- Creativity: To do always as much as we can, in the way that we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful than when we inherited it.
  7. Imani- Faith: To believe with all our hearts in our parents, our teachers, our leaders, our people and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

At the beginning of Kwanzaa three red and three green candles are placed in a special candle holder known as a kinara. A black candle is placed at center of the kinara and is lit first with an additional candle being lit each subsequent night. Families also take time each night to explore one of the seven principles.

This is only scratching the surface of Kwanzaa– there is so much more to explore including the seven basic symbols (including the kinara), gifts, and colors and decorations. The official Kwanzaa website dives into all of this and more.

Joyous Kwanzaa!

-Kina Thorpe, Program Assistant