December 30, 2004

Seven guiding principles of Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is an African American celebration with focus on the "traditional African values" of family, community responsibility, commerce, and self-improvement. It is based on the Nguzo Saba (seven guiding principles), one for each day of the observance, and is celebrated from December 26th to January 1st.

While I'm not sure which of the many micro-cultures on the African continent are responsible for this list, for me it's a viable cultural template that invites men and women into roles of responsibility for the care and survival of their community.

Would a boy raised in a culture with these values have to wander aimlessly in search of his manhood? An adult man? An Elder male? I don't think so.

Umoja (oo-MO-jah) Unity stresses the importance of togetherness for the family and the community, which is reflected in the African saying, "I am We," or "I am because We are."

Kujichagulia (koo-gee-cha-goo-LEE-yah) Self-Determination requires that we define our common interests and make decisions that are in the best interest of our family and community.

Ujima (oo-GEE-mah) Collective Work and Responsibility reminds us of our obligation to the past, present and future, and that we have a role to play in the community, society, and world.

Ujamaa (oo-JAH-mah) Cooperative economics emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support.

Nia (NEE-yah) Purpose encourages us to look within ourselves and to set personal goals that are beneficial to the community.

Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah) Creativity makes use of our creative energies to build and maintain a strong and vibrant community.

Imani (ee-MAH-nee) Faith focuses on honoring the best of our traditions, draws upon the best in ourselves, and helps us strive for a higher level of life for humankind, by affirming our self-worth and confidence in our ability to succeed and triumph in righteous struggle.


  1. Earl - do you have ANY idea where Kwanzaa came from? It was started by a Black Panther who felt that Christmas was "too white" and felt that blacks needed their own "tribal identity" in the US. He started a mish-mash of what he believed were African customs - he wasn't from Africa, but from California - and marketed his ideas during the height of the civil rights movement. It's the height of racism and separatism. The ideals are lovely - but even today the proponants of Kwanzaa are extremly clear - this is ONLY for black people - for black people, about black people, for the unification of the "black nation" and "black spirit". Don't jump on this racist, separitist bandwagon. Do a little research on it. It's kind of frightening when you get behind the Hallmark Card propaganda to the reality of it all.

  2. Thanks for the input. I have not done a lot of research on this topic. That said, I generally support any ethnic group's approach to instilling important cultural, community, and family values in its adults and children. If those lessons are delivered in a unique style and language, or out of a framework that better allows people to hear it, I'm for it. I'm also for ethnic pride, "self-help," and cultivation of a "heritage."

    I seem to remember that Christmas was a fourth century invention (by white folks) that came out of a "mish-mash" of pagan, solestice celebrations, Roman holidays and traditions. I don't know if it was "inclusive." As a tradition in current times, while serving Chirstians (and store owners) well, it certainly is not a fit for a huge segment of the population. It could be see as confusing and "frightening" by all those non-Christian believers and agnostics.

    I am thrilled that you reached back two years into my blog though.



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