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Are You Keeping Kwanzaa?

By on December 26, 2012

Kwanzaa  means “first fruits” in Swahili. While each family celebrates Kwanzaa in their own way, they can include singing, dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights of Kwanzaa are seven principles based on the values of African culture.

Seven Principles

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

Unity: Umoja (oo–MO–jah)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race. On this day consider hosting a family dinner, a twitter chat, or any act focused on unity.

Self-determination: Kujichagulia (koo–gee–cha–goo–LEE–yah)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. Practically, you might consider plans for retirement, longterm care (if needed), or even proactively making your last wishes known to those you love.

Collective Work and Responsibility: Ujima (oo–GEE–mah)
To build and maintain our community together. Grab a group and volunteer today. See what’s lacking in your community and help fix it.

Cooperative Economics: Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together. This ones easy. Shop in stores that affirm you and your community. Support local shops, entrepreneurs, etc.

Purpose: Nia (nee–YAH)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community. Band together with like-minded souls and mentor a child or two, renovate the local playground, or just pick up the litter on your block.

Creativity: Kuumba (koo–OOM–bah)
To do always as much as we can to leave our community more beautiful than we inherited it. Recycle, recycle, recycle. Get others to do it too. Create something cool and artistic with your buds.

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. When you feel the spirit. Pray, worship, meditate, or all three for what matters most.

These principles can be celebrated and discussed in a number of ways, they reinforce community among African-Americans.  An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.

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