The holiday Kwanzaa was created by the American Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 as a way of reinforcing African culture and heritage and reconnecting Africans throughout the world with the traditions and building blocks of community. The number seven holds a special significance – the celebration is seven days long, there are Seven Principles (the Nguzo Saba in Swahili) and seven symbols, including one called The Seven Candles. The last day of Kwanzaa (Swahili for first fruits of the harvest) is the first day of the new year, January 1.
While I have never celebrated Kwanzaa, I can’t help but think that the Seven Principles should serve as a reminder of how we should act in our communities all year long. I also believe that the Knit-a-square community embodies these principles.
Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
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.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
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.
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.
January 1 has always served as a time for self-reflection, a time to “hit the reset button” and assess where you’ve been and where you want to be. Kwanzaa is used to ask and answer the three Kawaida questions: Who am I? Am I really who I say I am? Am I all I ought to be? At which point, we can recommit ourselves to higher ideals and be the best people we can be.
Here’s to a happy, healthy New Year and much community- and people-building in the year ahead. Check out the January challenge, The Garden, for more first fruits of the harvest!