for many black americans, kwanzaa offers a more spiritual way to celebrate when the mainstream is anti-black

December 27, 2017
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Happy Holidays!

And by that we don’t just mean to those celebrating Christmas or Hannukah. This is a time for many different customs, including the week-long celebration of Kwanzaa, which honors Black heritage and history for the seven days from after Christmas.

Credited to Maulana Kaurenga who first celebrated the holiday in 1966-67, each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles:

  1. Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ 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 together.
  5. Nia (Purpose): To make 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 we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  7. Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

By centering on these timeless concepts, Kwanzaa gives many Black Americans a more spiritual alternative in an anti-Black country where systemic racism is still the norm.

Still, it is not without its own controversy. Marenga stands accused of stealing the ideas behind the holiday from Black women, and in 1971 he was sentenced to one to ten years in prison on counts of felonious assault and false imprisonment for torturing several other women with his wife.

So, for many, the struggle is in how to salvage the good in the face of so many pressures to deem our history something shameful if existent at all, while acknowledging the bad. Such is the plight of being Black.

Do you celebrate? If so, how do you balance the history of Marenga? Let us know in the comments!


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