Many contend that Kwanzaa (December 26 2022 – January 1, 2023) is a “made up” holiday – a holiday created to separate the Black community from society. Others quickly denounce its founder, Maulana Karenga, as a criminal and an abuser of women.
Maulana Karenga, a Black activist, created Kwanzaa in 1966, during the aftermath of the Watts riots and at the height of the struggle for equality and civil rights. Granted, initially Karenga stated that his goal was to “Give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate a practice of the dominant society.”
Without doubt, Karenga has a checkered past. However, today, the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa have a much broader meaning – a much broader context than even Karenga had imagined in 1966. The “Seven Principles of Kwanzaa” serve as a guiding light for us to work together to eliminate hatred, bigotry, and intolerance.
“Umoja (Unity)” encourages us to maintain and sustain an omnipotent, unyielding bound. The unity of a community in its dedicated efforts to eradicate prejudice and bigotry is the strongest defense against the horrible specter of hatred.
“Kujichaguila (Self-Determination)” reminds us that the occurrences of violence and hatred in Jersey City / Hudson County are an offense to everyone in the community. This principle reinforces the concept that we — as a self-determined people — define who we are. And, as a strongly united people, we loudly denounce all forms of bigotry and hatred.
“Ujima (Collective Responsibility)” is our guide to support the community. This principle helps us to nurture an esprit de corps among all members of the community. It unifies us in our righteous struggle against violence, ignorance, and intolerance.
“Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)” strengthens our conviction and resolve to cooperate in order to build a vibrant, viable community. Those who preach separation and foster an agenda of hatred have no place in our community.
“Nia (Purpose)” enables the community. It fortifies the concept that everyone contributes to the success of the community. It takes meaningful communication, robust coordination, sincere collaboration and unyielding cooperation to conceive, create, maintain and sustain a community undaunted by discrimination, prejudices, and hatred.
“Kuumba (Creativity)” emphasizes the need to continuously learn and improve; to leave the community more beautiful and beneficial for our posterity.
“Imani (Faith)” is the universal thread that is woven throughout the previous six principles. Without the sincere belief that we can make endearing and enduring changes to our community, then, regrettably, we have nothing.
Society’s struggle – our struggle – is to replace acrimony and hostility with understanding and compassion, to supplant ignorance with wisdom, to focus on the unity of an entire community instead of division and derision, and to promote equal and human rights for all Americans. We, as a society, need to make a sincere effort to eliminate ignorance and intolerance, to replace hatred with love, and to instill peace where violence once flourished.
Indeed, this is a noble, righteous struggle. The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa – the seven candles – can serve as the guiding light to show us the way.
Imagine that! A concept that had been intended to be “separatist” can actually bring all of us together in a united effort against bigotry, discrimination, hatred, and violence.
It is my sincere hope that the principles of Kwanzaa help us to emerge even stronger in our struggle to end all forms of hatred, ignorance, and intolerance.
John Di Genio