African Americans prepare for Kwanzaa

Hollywood, MD – On Dec. 26, many African American’s will greet each other by saying, “Happy Kwanzaa!” Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community, and culture from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. Kwanzaa was established in 1966, during the Black Freedom Movement and thus reflects its concern for cultural connection in thought and practice, and the unity and self-determination associated with this.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach. Karenga is an author and activist who stresses the indispensable need to preserve, continually revitalize and promote African American culture.

Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, not a religious one, thus available to and practiced by Africans of all religious faiths who come together based on the rich, ancient and varied common ground of their heritage and connection to Africa.
The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.

The first-fruits celebrations are recorded in African history as far back as ancient Egypt and Nubia and appear in ancient and modern times in other classical African civilizations such as Ashantiland, and Yorubaland. First, Kwanzaa builds on the five fundamental activities of Continental African “first fruit” celebrations: ingathering; reverence; commemoration; recommitment, and celebration.

Secondly, Kwanzaa was created to serve as a regular communal celebration to reaffirm and reinforce the bonds between African Americans as a people. It was designed to be an ingathering to strengthen community and reaffirm common identity, purpose, and direction as a people and a world community.

Thirdly, Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce the Nguzo Saba (the Seven Principles.) These seven communitarian African values: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

On Jan. 1, many African Americans will gather in homes to celebrate and recognize this special cultural holiday with African drumming, poetry, food, and ceremony. 2017, marks the 50th-anniversary of Kwanzaa celebrations around the world.

For many years, our family celebrated Kwanzaa on New Years’ Day under the encouragement of Lasana Mack, my brother-in-law, at the time. Mack was a big supporter of the Pan-African movement and encouraged others to be informed and celebrate their ancestry. This was a day where people gathered together in a home to be encouraged through the reading of poetry and the sounds of African drumming. Kwanzaa celebration was always a time to recognize each other’s accomplishments. Today, I am sure Lasana is encouraging our ancestors to celebrate Kwanzaa with him in the spirit realm.

Contact Shertina Mack at