Rise up and unite
Kwanzaa is a seven-day tradition created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Black Studies at CSU Long Beach. It was started to unite African-American communities in the wake of the Watts Riots. That’s when many people in Los Angeles rose up against the mistreatment of the Black community after an incident with their police department.
7+7+7 = 1
To connect his community with ancestral knowledge and values, Dr. Karenga created seven principles to coincide with the seven days, seven candles, and seven symbols of Kwanzaa.
And here they are
The seven principles of Kwanzaa are connected to seven candles (three green, three red, on black) – mishumaa maba. They are all Swahili words: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work/responsibility), Ujamaa (collective economics), Nia (one's purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith). These principles are represented by each of the candles on a Kwanzaa spread.
It takes a village
There are seven symbols present on a Kwanzaa altar: the mkeka, a straw mat which stands for ancestral foundation; the kinara, a candelabra symbolizing lineage; the candles, mishumaa saba; mazao, the fruit and vegetable harvests; zawadi, gifts, and kikombe cha umoja, the shared unity cup. The seventh and final symbol is vibunzi or fertility, represented by a stalk of corn (or one for each child in the house.) Two stalks are used if there are no children in the house to embody the African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
From December 26 to January 1
For each of these seven nights, it’s tradition for families to gather, feast, drink from the kikombe cha umoja, sing, dance, tell stories, light a candle, and reflect on the principles of Kwanzaa. The traditional greeting is “Habari gani” (“What is the news?”) which is answered with the day’s principle.