From the desk of:
Office of Cultural Heritage Tourism
640 South Canal Street
601-446-6345 ext. 1623 (O)
The Holiday Season is upon us and many are preparing for the upcoming festivities. The Natchez Association for the Preservation of African American History & Culture (NAPAC) would like to take this opportunity to present information regarding Kwanzaa.
The holiday was established during the turbulent Civil Rights era of the 1960’s as a celebration of African culture for the African American community. It is a week-long observance celebrated from December 26th to January 1st. When I’ve mentioned Kwanzaa to members of our community I have been told that “Jesus is the reason for the season”, but Kwanzaa begins after Christmas. Kwanzaa is a Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture, and was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday. Many African Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa do so in addition to observing Christmas.
Kwanzaa was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage by uniting in meditation and study of African traditions and Nguzo Saba, the "seven principles of African Heritage". Kwanzaa is intended to promote the reclamation of important African values and speak to the best of what it means to be African and human. On each of the seven days of Kwanzaa a different principle is emphasized.
Unity: Umoja (oo–MO–jah) To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race. Self-determination: Kujichagulia (koo–gee–cha–goo–LEE–yah) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. Collective Work and Responsibility: Ujima (oo–GEE–mah) To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together. Cooperative Economics: Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah) To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together. Purpose: Nia (nee–YAH) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. Creativity: Kuumba (koo–OOM–bah) 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. Faith: Imani (ee–MAH–nee) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
During Kwanzaa there is a greeting which is meant to reinforce awareness and commitment to the Seven Principles. It is “Habari gani” or what is the word? The answer is each of the principles for each of the days of Kwanzaa, i.e., “Umoja”, on the first day, “Kujichagulia”, on the second day and so on. The language spoken is Swahili from east Africa.
On each of the seven days of Kwanzaa review the purpose behind each of the seven principles. When there is unity, there will be strength within our community. Kwanzaa was conceived as a fundamental and important way to introduce and reinforce these values and cultivate appreciation for them.