HomeCover StoriesAbout Kwanzaa

About Kwanzaa

Black news from Pasadena - KwanzaaDecember 26 - January 1

Pan-African Associations of America Press Release

As we prepare for the Kwanzaa season, it becomes critical for us to review the definition of the center piece of Kwanzaa which is the Nguzo (N-goo-zoe) Saba (sah-bah) which translated from Swahili means “The Seven Principles”. Many well meaning individuals will call them the Kwanzaa principles but the term is actually Nguzo Saba. One of the challenges of African people in the U.S. is to become familiar and comfortable with African languages which is what we spoke before we began our Maafa (African Slave Holocaust) journey into the New World.

One of the ways of reclaiming ourselves and traditions is by embracing not only recreated traditions and ceremonies but also becoming comfortable with the languages we lost. This does not mean that one has to rush out and take African languages classes but it does mean that we should not be afraid to learn how to pronounce words even if it takes us a little time to get them down. An integral part of Kwanzaa is the use of Swahili terms.

In the coming week we encourage African people to learn how to say the terms. No one gets them right overnight but with repetition and time, you will sound like you have been using them all of your life. Each time we learn a term in an African language we reclaim something that we do not have to consult Europeans on. We also have the advantage of having many African sisters and brothers from the continent in our midst. We should not hesitate to ask them to teach us and they should not hesitate to want to teach us. By so doing we ALL begin to understand what Kwanzaa is all about at a sociospiritual collective level and our children learn that they are not just tied to the English language as a means of communications.

While there are many books on the market about Kwanzaa, there is one that is authority on the concepts behind Kwanzaa. If you want to understand something you always have to return to the source (Sankofa, sahn-koe-fah which is a word from the Twi language spoken by the Ashanti people of Ghana). The source of Kwanzaa is Dr. Maulana Karenga who is the Chair of the African Studies Department at CSU Long Beach. We thought it important that we share his explanation of the Nguzo Saba as the core component of the Kwanzaa celebration.

The Nguzo Saba

The Nguzo Saba, as stated above, are the core and consciouness of Kwanzaa. They are posed as the matrix and minimum set of values African Americans need to rescue and reconstruct their lives in their own image and interest and build and sustain an Afrocentric family, community and culture. They were selected in terms of both tradition and reason.

Selected from the African communitarian tradition, the Nguzo Saba were also chosen with an appreciation for where we are now as a people and what challenges we face and must deal with successfully as a people. Our most definitive condition is that we are a community in struggle and our values should reflect and lend support to this struggle. The struggle is none other than the struggle to rescue and reconstruct our history and culture, shape them in our own image and interest, and self consciously contribute to the forward flow of human history.

The Reasons for the Selection

Although there are many other communitarian values which could have been chosen, these seven core values, the Nguzo Saba, were selected for four basic reasons. First, they were selected because of their prevalence and recurrence in communitarian African societies, therefore reflecting a Pan-African character.

Secondly, these particular values were selected because of their perceived relevance to the liberational project of African Americans, i.e., their struggle for freedom, rebuilding community and contributing to a new history of humankind.

Thirdly, the seven core principles were chosen because of the cultural and spiritual significance of seven in African culture.

And finally, these seven core values were selected because of the manageability of the number seven in terms of teaching, memorization, learning and core emphasis.

Black news from Pasadena - KwanzaaThe Purpose of the Principles

What was necessary, then, was to make a selective analysis of continental African cultural values and choose and establish the ones which would best serve the interests and aspirations of the African American family, community and culture. In terms of the interest and aspirations of African American people, the Nguzo Saba were developed and offered as an Afrocentric value system which would serve the following basic functions:

  • Organize and enrich our relations with each other on the personal and community level;
  • Establish standards, commitments and priorities that would tend to enhance our human possibilities as persons and a people;
  • Aid in the recovery and reconstruction of lost historical memory and cultural legacy in the development of an Afrocentric paradigm of life and achievement;
  • Serve as a contribution to a core system of communitarian ethical values for the moral guidance and instruction of the community, especially for children; and
  • Contribute to an ongoing and expanding set of Afrocentric communitarian values which would aid in bringing into being a new man, woman and child who self consciously participate in the ethical project of starting a new history of African people and humankind.

With these observations in mind, we can now turn to the rich meaning and message of the Nguzo Saba themeselves, both in the context of Kwanzaa and daily life.”

The Nugzo Sabaumoja (oo-moe-jah) Unity

Black news from Pasadena - Kwanzaa and Maulana Karenga

~ Maulana Karenga ~
The creator of Kwanzaa,
"Kwanzaa, A Celebration of Family,
Community and Culture",
published by
University of Sankore Press,
560 West 54th Street,
Los Angeles, CA 90043.

To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

Kujichaguilia (koogee- chah-goo-lee-ah) Self Determination

To define ourselves, name ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (oo-gee-mah) Collective Work and Responsibility

To build and maintain our community together and to make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and solve them together.

Ujamaa (oo-jah-maah) Cooperative Economics

To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (nee-ah) Purpose

To make our collective vocation the building and developing our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (koo-oom-bah) Creativity

To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (ee-mah-nee) Faith

To believe with all of our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the rightheousness and victory of our struggle.

Now is a good time to post a copy of the Nguzo Saba in your home so that your children will become comfortable with the words. It’s also a good time to post them in your business where they can be seen by employees and customers as a sign of doing ethical business. They can also be posted in houses of worship, recreational centers, Black and African Studies Departments, Black and African Student Unions, and professional offices.  For those communities that are really on the cutting edge of building unity, the principles can even be placed on billboards in African American communities so that everyone is aware of what we must work for if we are to build strong communities that know where they are going.

Kwanzaa will be reality when the Nguzo Saba is understood in urban and rural areas of African life in the U.S., and when we live these principles in our daily interactions with one another as brothers and sisters building toward safe and productive communities where we leave none of our people out or behind.

Dr. Maulana Karenga Speaks On Kwanzaa and the Practice of The Seven Principles: Dr. Maulana Karenga, creator of Kwanzaa; professor, Department of Black Studies, CSULB; Chair, The Organization Us; and author, Kwanzaa presents lectures on Kwanzaa.

For Kwanzaa information and Celebration of Family, Community and Culture for this year, contact the African American Cultural Center at 2560 W. 54th Street in Los Angeles or by telephone: (323) 299-6124.


[The Pan-African Associations of America will hold its 12th annual Community celebration of the Umoja Day of Kwanzaa.]


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