KWANZAA: Rediscovering our African Culture Essay

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KWANZAA: Rediscovering our African Culture

Kwanzaa was first celebrated in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, his family and Friends. Dr. Karenga, a professor of African-American History at CSU, Long Beach, was effected by the Watts Riots of the summer of 1965. He felt that African-Americans had lost touch with their African heritage. He began to study ways that they could help themselves and each other. Dr. Karenga wanted to unify his people and instill a pride in their joint culture. He felt that there should be a special time of the year set aside to reflect upon and reaffirm the black community. He studied the harvest and "first fruit" celebrations on many African tribes, and although they all celebrated differently there were
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Kwanzaa comes at the time of many African harvest feasts, in December, and is a time to be renewed in your community and proud of your joint achievements. The gifts that are given should be handmade or functional such as books, although gifts are not required, nor should they be given if they present an undue hardship. Kwanzaa is not a Christmas substitute but for those who find it more meaningful to them, it presents an option of participation during the holiday season.

The celebration of Kwanzaa is centered around seven principles one highlighted on each of the seven days and seven symbols. The number seven has been considered sacred and infused with metaphysical powers by many cultures in the world. It recurs repeatedly in creation and problem solving stories not only in the Judeo-Christian texts, but also prominently in the Islamic faith and the culture of Native Americans, specifically the Cherokee.

The seven principles, called the Nguzo Saba, are Umoja (unity); Kujichagulia (self-determination); Ujima (collective work and responsibility); Ujamaa (cooperative economics); Nia (purpose); Kuumba (creativity); and Imani (faith). These seven principles are highlighted during Kwanzaa but are meant to be guides for daily living throughout the year.

Umoja means to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race. The importance of this is that through the support of the "tribe" we are able to prosper. Many African
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