Kwanzaa: Umoja (Unity)

Happy Kwanzaa! Kwanzaa is an African American Holiday derived from several first fruits celebrations in Africa. The Holiday is rooted in seven Principles (from various parts of Africa) that we call the Nguzu Saba.  Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday and does not compete or interfere with the Christian religious celebrations of Christmas.  

Kwanzaa, a celebration of Black Culture and the global African Diaspora was founded in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and Chair of African Studies at California State University, Long Beach California. Celebrated from December 26-January 1, Kwanzaa is focused on 7 different Principles one of which is celebrated and reflected on daily. 

For years, Kwanzaa was viewed as Black Christmas or a replacement of Christmas, but it’s not. Our Jewish or Hebrews brothers and sisters have been able to withstand the persecutions across the globe because they had religious and cultural festivals that that were celebrated by families as well as the religious community that placed emphasis on their historical struggle and their relationship with God.

While Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, the history of Black and African people can never be celebrated without acknowledging the presence and power of God. The descendants of Africans who were brought to America as a free labor class, trusted in God for there deliverance. 

The Nguzu Saba consists of seven principles the African Diaspora should strive to focus their lives around.  The meaning of each principle can scripturally be found in the Bible and each principle speaks to the history and struggle of our people. The principles are as follows:

  • Umoja (Unity)
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) 
  • Nia (Purpose) 
  • Kuumba (Creativity) 
  • Imani (Faith) 

One principle per day is celebrated during Kwanzaa. It is easy to understand why we should reflect and put into practice the principle of unity.  While there is no monolithic African American Culture, at one point in U.S. History there were some cultural commonalities that knit us together. Our sojourn in America has been a unique one, and at every point in our history here, we have disagreed on the various ideologies that will liberate us.

From the unique debate between W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington to the great divide between Rev. (Congressman) Adam Clayton Powell and Rev. Martin L. King to the present day our people differ on the economic, political, religious, social and cultural platforms for our people. Our cultures may disagree on many things but come together for the common good. We need more unity in our families, relationships, marriages and our communities. The first Principle, Umoja (Unity)  is a necessity.

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