It’s Kwanzaa – Part II

A group a teenagers shared the Severn Principles of Kwanzaa. I was impressed with the seven-day process and the ritual involved. There are seven candles; 3 red, 1 black and 3 green. In the Kinara, (the candle holder), is placed a candle for each of the seven days. The red symbolizes the blood that our African ancestors had shed to provide African-Americans better lives. Black symbolizes African people all over the world and our unification in struggle and hope. Green stands for African land and the nourishment and growth it provides for us as well as our riches and outstanding accomplishments.

I loved that we honored our elders, children and the contributions made throughout the year. The children of the community walked in a procession to set-up the Kwanzaa altar. I especially loved the non-commercial aspects of Kwanzaa. You have to give a hand-made gift or a gift of knowledge. No store bought gifts allowed. And the celebration ends with a huge community pot luck.

The evening was a night to remember. I felt so connected to my community and culture. I had the feeling of arriving home. What I learned that night would change the way I would spent my Christmas season for the rest of my life. I immediately incorporated the celebratory traditions of Kwanzaa into my life.

There are seven principles also known as the Nguzo Saba. The principles are as follows:

Umoja -unity,


Ujima-collective work and responsibility,

Ujamaa – cooperative economics,

Nia- purpose,

Kuumba- creativity, Imani- faith.

There are eight symbols associated with Kwanzaa and are used to build an altar. The symbols are:

A Kinara

Seven candles (1 black, 3 red, 3 green) is lite nightly for each of the principles.

Unity Cup Straw mat

Mazao (Fruits of the harvest)

Vibunzi (ears of corn)

Zwadi (Handmade gifts)

Bendera (Flag Red, Black & Green)

For me, Kwanzaa was more than the gifts and the feasts; it was a rites of passage. And being exposed to many new ideas and concepts. The Kwanzaa Celebration provided a sense of purpose, togetherness, meaning and pride that I had never experienced before. The best take away is, I don’t have to wait once a year for the principles of Kwanzaa. I can live by these principles throughout the year.


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