Kwanzaa participation should be a must

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

During this Christmas holiday season I would think African Americans would be doing themselves a grave disservice not to participate in a Kwanzaa event.

Although Kwanzaa is not an established holiday, it is an African American celebration in acknowledging and embracing practices and principles that could help empower they to an elevation representative of whom they really can be when working together. It is a celebration of family, community and culture. Kwanzaa gives African Americans and others interested in true African values, a better appreciation of African culture and traditions.

In a time when African Americans are realizing that we are not integrating but assimilating into a Eurocentric dominated society, it is crucial that we learn, embrace and focus on traditional African values. These values incorporate family, community responsibility, commerce, and self-improvement. It is crucial that we work to save ourselves and stop looking for an oppressive system to save us.

We as African Americans must know whom we are to go forward and make a difference. We owe it to our future and our children. Participation in Kwanzaa events is paramount to learning, appreciating, and utilizing African traditions and values to empower our communities and ourselves.

There should be no excuse for African Americans not participating in Kwanzaa because it isn’t political or religious. If for no other reason, it offers African Americans a time to honor their ancestors and embrace their true culture, noting that learning about self, negates others defining you.

Kwanzaa was founded in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga and is reported to be observed by more than 18 million people worldwide. Kwanzaa means first fruits of the harvest in the African language of Swahili. One may also note that the added ‘a’ to Kwanzaa is to reflect the difference between the African American celebration (Kwanzaa) and the Motherland spelling (Kwanza).

Kwanzaa is celebrated seven days (December 26 to January 1). Each day encompasses one of seven principles, called the Nguzo Saba: The first day is Umoja, representing unity; the second day is Kujichagulia, representing self-determination; the third day is Ujima, representing collective work and responsibility; the forth day is Ujamaa, representing cooperative economics; the fifth day is Nia, representing purpose; the sixth day is Kuumba, representing creativity; and the seventh day is Imani, representing faith.

There are various items associated with preparing for Kwanzaa celebrations, including: a Kinara (candle holder); Mkeka (placemat preferable made of straw); Mazao (crops such as fruits and vegetables); Kikombe cha umoja (unity cup), Zawadi (small significant gifts); and Mishumaa saba (seven candles, one black, three red and three green).

Africans and African Americans should look for and be cognizant of venues offering Kwanzaa observances in their communities. Attend as many observances as possible. It only helps build strong, proud, and self-dependent African American communities. Participants should don African attire if possible. Make sure your children are in attendance. It is an observance in ethnic pride and community building.
Wishing my African American brothers, sisters, and participants, a happy Kwanzaa.