Robbinsdale Area Schools

Celebrating Kwanzaa

Each December, millions of people across the globe celebrate a holiday known as Kwanzaa. Created in 1966 by an African American professor, Dr. Maulana Karenga, the week-long African American and Pan-African holiday, is celebrated Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.

Dr. Karenga created Kwanzaa, which is not a religious holiday, as a way to counteract the commercialization of Christmas and the year-end holidays, and to provide a way to celebrate African cultural values.

The holiday was also created, in part, as a response to the Watts Riots in Los Angeles in 1965 as a way to bring African-Americans together as a community. Kwanzaa celebrations often include singing and dancing, storytelling, poetry reading, drumming, and feasting.

“The conception and practice of Kwanzaa is rooted in both ancient African harvest celebrations and the Black Freedom Movement and thus it calls for and urges an active and ongoing commitment to African and human good and the well-being of the world,” Dr. Karenga writes in a message shared on

Seven is an important number for the holiday -- with seven days, seven core principles, and seven core symbols that are used on the centerpiece for Kwanzaa.

Jessica B. Harris, author of the book A Kwanzaa Keepsake, describes The Seven Nights of Kwanzaa:

December 26: Celebrates Umoja, or Unity: "to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race."

December 27: Celebrates Kujichagulia, or Self-Determination: "to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, speak for ourselves..."

December 28: Celebrates Ujima, or Collective Work and Responsibility:"to build and maintain our community together..."

December 29: Celebrates Ujamaa, or Cooperative Economics: "to build and maintain our own…businesses and to profit from them together."

December 30: Celebrates Nia, or Purpose: "to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness."

December 31: Celebrates Kuumba, or Creativity: "to do always as much as we can, in the way we can…to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it."

January 1: Celebrates Imani, or Faith: "to believe…in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle."

If you would like to read more about Kwanzaa, visit:

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