The repeated images of civil rights demonstrators driven by freedom faith being hosed, attacked by dogs, and beaten by police led to the feeling by some that black Americans were relentlessly cast as victims in an epic racist drama. A younger generation rebelled against this stereotype and developed faith in a new black cultural nationalism. During the mid-sixties, these cultural nationalists would join forces with those in the Black Arts movement to spearhead new traditions that drew from age-old African customs and rituals.
Maulana (Ron) Karenga is the creator of Kwanzaa.
Ron Karenga, leader of the organization US, was one of the chief architects. He sought to syncretize traditional African culture and contemporary African-American mores. While the organization US became embroiled in tensions with the Black Panthers and others over its nationalistic direction, Karenga made one lasting contribution to African-American culture: Kwanzaa.
Kwanzaa, a weeklong celebration, commemorates the holiness and wholeness of life. Based on traditional African harvest ceremonies, Kwanzaa ritualizes the Ngozo Saba, the seven principles Karenga felt African American families needed to recover from the brutality of slavery and the trauma of the civil rights movement.
It was first celebrated Dec. 26, 1966. Kwanzaa places particular emphasis on the unity of Black families.
The Seven Principles are:
UMOJA (UNITY) (oo-MOE-jah) - To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race;
KUJICHAGULIA (SELF DETERMINATION) (koo-jee-cha-goo-LEE-ah) - To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves;
UJIMA (COLLECTIVE WORK AND RESPONSIBILITY) (oo-JEE-mah) - To build and maintain our community together, and to make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together;
UJAMAA (COOPERATIVE ECONOMICS) (oo-JAH-mah) - To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses, and to profit together from them;
NIA (PURPOSE) (nee-AH) - To make as our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness;
KUUMBA (CREATIVITY) (koo-OOM-bah) - To do always as much as we can, in the way that we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it;
IMANI (FAITH) (ee-MAH-nee) - To believe with all our hearts in our parents, our teachers, our leaders, our people, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
In 1966, when Kwanzaa was first created, Karenga's black cultural nationalistic perspective created one more division within a community already riven by so many perspectives of faith that it could scarcely hold them together. But today, not only African-Americans, but Americans of all religions and spiritual faiths celebrate Kwanzaa.