Audience versions of this page: FamilyOn December 26, 1966, Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa. Inspired by African harvest festivals, Karenga created Kwanzaa to help establish a sense of unity among diverse African American communities.Kwanzaa (taken from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” or “first fruits”) is built on seven principles and seven symbols.Each principle is represented by a candle in the kinara (candleholder) and discussed on each of the seven nights of Kwanzaa. The Nguzo Saba, or seven principles, are: unity (umoja); self-determination (kujichagulia); collective work and responsibility (ujima); cooperative economics (ujamaa); purpose (nia); creativity (kuumba); and faith (imani).The seven symbols are: crops (mazao, the symbol of African harvest celebrations); the placemat (makeka, the symbol of tradition and history); the candleholder (kinara, the symbol of African Americans’ roots in Africa); an ear of corn (muhindi, the symbol of children and the future); the seven candles (mishumaa saba, the symbols of Nguzo Saba, or seven principles); the unity cup (kikombe cha umoja, the symbol of community unity); and gifts (zawadi, symbols of the labor and love of parents).
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry community Noun
social group whose members share common heritage, interests, or culture.
Encyclopedic Entry: crop diverse Adjective
varied or having many different types.
study of monetary systems, or the creation, buying, and selling of goods and services.
day or other period of time set to celebrate or commemorate an event, usually with a series of parties, ceremonies, or observances.
the gathering and collection of crops, including both plants and animals.
cultural or family background.
to influence to act.
work or employment.
set of sounds, gestures, or symbols that allows people to communicate.
rule or standard.
highest-ranking teacher at a college or university.
Swahili noun, adjective
a language of eastern Africa.
something used to represent something else.
beliefs, customs, and cultural characteristics handed down from one generation to the next.