Discover the Networks Kwanzaa is a week-long festival celebrated mainly in the U.S. from December 26 through January 1 each year. It was established in 1966 by the socialist and black nationalist Maulana Karenga, who promoted the holiday as a black alternative to Christmas. Karenga’s idea was to celebrate the end of what he considered the Christmas-season exploitation of African Americans. According to the official Kwanzaa website, the celebration was originally designed to foster “conditions that would enhance the revolutionary social change for the masses of Black Americans,” and to provide a “reassessment, reclaiming, recommitment, remembrance, retrieval, resumption, resurrection and rejuvenation of those principles (Way of Life) utilized by Black Americans’ ancestors.” Karenga postulated seven major principles to be emphasized during Kwanzaa, identifying each by its Swahili name:
- Umoja (Unity): “to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race”
- Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): “to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves” (i.e., race-consciousness and identity politics)
- Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): “to build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems, and to solve them together” (i.e., socialism and groupthink)
- Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): “to build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together” (code for “buy black”); Karenga describes this principle as “essentially a commitment to the practice of shared social wealth”—a euphemism for communism.
- Nia (Purpose): “to make our collective vocation the building and development of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness” (i.e., identity politics)
- 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 we inherited it”
- Imani (Faith): “to believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle” (Kwanzaa, like Marxism, is based upon a faith in man, not in God. Contrary to traditional monotheism, it worships no god at all. Rather, Kwanzaa deifies people and their ancestors. It substitutes faith in the self and in the collective, for faith in a divine creator. Karenga himself once described Kwanzaa as “an oppositional alternative to the spookism, mysticism and non-earth based practices which plague us as a people.” On another occasion, he described Christianity as a “belief in spooks who threaten us if we don’t worship them and demand we turn over our destiny and daily lives” to them. Such a belief system, Karenga asserted, “must be categorized as spookism and condemned.” Karenga has explained that his creation of Kwanzaa was motivated in part by hostility toward both Christianity and Judaism. In his 1980 book Kawaida Theory, for instance, he claimed that Western religion “denies and diminishes human worth, capacity, potential and achievement.” “In Christian and Jewish mythology,” Karenga added, “humans are born in sin, cursed with mythical ancestors who’ve sinned and brought the wrath of an angry God on every generation’s head.”