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What is Kwanzaa?

18 Dec 2020 - Cat Young

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, we thought this would be a good opportunity to tell you about Kwanzaa.

What is Kwanzaa and why is it important?

Kwanzaa is a holiday that came from a desire to give African Americans a chance to celebrate their own culture and traditions.

The holiday was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, who came up with the idea after the 1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles, California. Similar to the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, the Watts Riots were about bringing attention to police brutality against African Americans as well as ending discrimination in housing, employment and education.

The coronavirus pandemic required most people to stay in their homes during 2020, and with that stillness came recognition. Last summer, millions around the world gained insight concerning the challenges experienced in the African American community. Seeing Black Lives Matter protests spring up in many cities helped people see the value in learning history and highlighted the need to better understand the issues impacting Black people in the United States.

What happens during Kwanzaa?

So now, let’s take a look at what actually takes place during Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa happens from December 26 through January 1. It combines aspects from several different African harvest celebrations with American customs. Festivities include music, dance, poetry and narratives. The holiday closes with reflection and looking forward at how to connect with family, values, and culture in the year ahead.

The 7 principles of Kwanzaa

There are 7 principles, one observed on each day of Kwanzaa:

  1. Unity (Umoja)
  2. Self-determination (Kujichagulia)
  3. Collective work and responsibility (Ujima)
  4. Co-operative economics (Ujamma)
  5. Purpose (Nia)
  6. Creativity (Kuumba)
  7. Faith (Imani)

Kwanzaa is a celebration open to all who wish to take part in it. Everyone can look at the 7 principles and benefit from sharing these with family and friends this holiday season.

Learn more about African-American culture

At Kaplan, our US university partners also see the importance of taking an in-depth look at developments in the Black community.

At Pace University in New York, you will find an African and African-American studies minor, which covers history, the social sciences, English literature, and the fine arts. Studying this minor could give you job opportunities in educational positions which require a high level of sensitivity in social issues of diversity.

You can even complete a bachelor’s degree in the subject at Arizona State University (ASU). ASU’s African and African American Studies BA offers you the chance to take a wide selection of courses addressing many of the critical issues facing African-descended peoples. You’ll explore important issues from different historical, cultural, sociological, political and psychological perspectives.

 
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