Kiswahili and Kwaanza
1. Origin of Kwaanza
Kwaanza is an African-American celebration initiated by Dr. Karenga as both a
way to celebrate the new year and a reminder of the history of black communities in
the United States. It is patterned on the African celebration of harvest during which
tribute is paid to the ancestors and to God while at the same time praying for another
benevolent year. The celebration has also become an opportunity for most African-American
communities to teach younger generations about African culture, rituals and language.
Kiswahili is the privileged language for the seven-day festivities.
2. Importance of Kiswahili
Kiswahili is the language privileged as the main means of communication of the rituals.
The word itself, Kwanza is the Kiswahili word for beginning. It comes from the verb
ku-anza, that is, to begin. It indicates thus the firm determination of a community
to begin a new year of committment, hard work and fulfilment that require collective effort.
The week of celebration is also an opportunity to highlight seven principles that serve
as the building blocks of Ubiquity. They represent the aspiration and the goals each
community sets itself collectively and its members individually. These seven principles are
- Umoja (Unity). This is to strive for a principles and harmonious togetherness in the
the family, community, nation and world African community.
- Kijichagulia (self-Determination). To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for our
ourselves and speak for ourselves instead of being defined, named, created for and spoken for by
- Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility). To build and maintain our community
together and makes our sisters' and brothers' problems our problems and solve them together.
- Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics). To build our own businesses, control the economics of our
own community and share in all its work and wealth.
- Nia (Purpose). To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community\
in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
- Kuumba (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 when we inherited it.
- Imani (Faith). To believe with all our heart in our Creator, our people, our parents, our
teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
3. Kwaanza and Christmas
Kwaanza is celebrated in many African-American communities in December. It has become one of the most
visible celebrations beside Christas and Hanukkah during the holidays season.
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