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It’s Also Kwanzaa Time for African Americans

By: Julio Bathson

Date Posted: 1999-12-24

The annual end of year Kwanzaa festival that Americans of African descent celebrate with bright colors is just around the corner. Starting on Sunday, December 26th, many African Americans on Okinawa will join in celebrating their historical identity with brothers and sisters back in the United States and wellwishers worldwide.

The Black Heritage Committee in Okinawa, through its planning committee, will present a Kwanzaa inaugural event at Kadena High School from 7:00 p.m. on that Sunday the 26th, the day after Christmas. As with all celebrations of the festival stateside and any other place in the world where the Kwanzaa feast is gaining recognition, African Americans will be honoring the values of Unity, Purpose, Self-Determination, Faith, Creativity, Cooperative Economics and Collective Responsibility.

The term “Kwanzaa” is a variation of the Swahili word for "first". It is a seven day holiday which begins each December 26th and runs for one week till January 1st. Each day is designated to celebrate one of the values cited above: “Umoja” (unity), “Kujichagulia” (self-determination), “Ujima” (or collective work and responsibility), “Ujamaa” (cooperative economics), “Nia” (or purpose), “Ukuumba” (creativity), and “Imani” (faith).

At this moment, Kwanzaa is not celebrated in any African country in the same way as in the United States. However, it seems to be one of those distinctly African American traditions that is going back across the Atlantic to the Motherland. Several people in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and other African nations are reported to be making preparations to join their brothers and sisters of the Americas in this very original celebration of important social values and virtues. The Kwanzaa ceremonies and rituals are a combination of the harvest festival traditions from many African ethnic groups from all of Africa, from east to west and from north to south. Because of that factor, it is believed by many that Kwanzaa will soon spread into Africa and become a real international celebration of the Africans’ history in all its timeless, universal dimensions.

Kwanzaa was founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 in the wake of the Watts riots and other civil disturbances. It was intended to serve as a culturally unifying commemoration. Although it is still a relatively young holiday, its celebration has spread rapidly, making it one of the truly national African American holidays. Nowadays, it is the ultimate celebration of family, community and culture for conscious people of African descent.


Dec. 26
Umoja or Unity

Dec. 27
Kujichagulia or Self-Determination

Dec. 28
Ujima or Collective Work and Responsibility

Dec. 29
Ujamaa or Cooperative Economics

Dec. 30
Nia or Purpose

Dec. 31
Ukuumba or Creativity

Jan. 1
Imani or Faith

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