In 1966, when Dr. Maulana Karenga and his "The Organization US" set out to create a purely Black tradition, it is no wonder they turned to the successes of East Africa as a foundation. For example, in Kenya, successful Harambee thought lead to that country adopting this word as its motto. In Tanzania, President Julius Nyerere employed Ujamaa principles from the 1960s, and published these principles officially in 1967. The results of Ujamaa in Tanzania included an increase of literacy, enrollment in schools, declines in infant deaths, and more. It is important to note also that in East Africa Swahili is widely used, and Swahili has become one of the most spoken languages in the continent.
In an effort to create a more universal ethos to this Black/Pan-African holiday, Dr. Karenga used terms in Swahili for creating Kwanzaa, which comes from the Swahili matunda ya kwanza or "first fruits of the harvest". As written on the official Kwanzaa website, maintained by "The Organization US":
"First, Kwanzaa was created to reaffirm and restore our rootedness in African culture. It is, therefore, an expression of recovery and reconstruction of African culture. Secondly, Kwanzaa was created to serve as a regular communal celebration to reaffirm and reinforce the bonds between us as a people. Thirdly, Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce the Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles): Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith). Kwanzaa was conceived as a fundamental and important way to introduce and reinforce these values and cultivate appreciation for them."On this fourth day of Kwanzaa - one of the "struggle" days**, we must intimate how our efforts in cooperative economics shall bring to life our purpose (Nia) as a community. Do you celebrate Kwanzaa? If so, what did you do today for Ujamaa? Today, I donated to Castle of our Skins, an organization dedicated to celebrating Black artistry through music.
Heri za Kwanzaa!!
** Celebrating Kwanzaa involves lighting candles of various colors that sit on a kinara or candle holder. Since Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration, there are seven candles that are to be lit each day of the week. The first candle is black. It is in the center, and represents the (Black) people. It is lit to symbolize unity (Umoja). Then a series of red and green candles are lit in an alternating pattern. The red candles symbolize "struggle", while the green candles symbolize "the future and hope that comes from the struggle". Lighting a red candle and then a green candle symbolizes that through struggle comes positivity. In this way, Kujichagulia (self-determination) begets Ujima (collective work and responsibility); Ujamaa (cooperative economics) begets Nia (purpose); and Kuumba (creativity) begets Imani (faith).