By Yussuf J. Simmonds, Los Angeles Sentinel
LOS ANGELES - The month of December has traditionally been regarded as the end of the calendar year and people often scramble to end it on a high note and prepare for the New Year. However, in addition to the other year-end holiday celebrations, Kwanzaa is also a cultural celebration and it is celebrated from December 26 to January 1, annually.
According to Dr. Maulana Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa, it is a non-religious, cultural holiday and it is not meant to supplant the occasion of Christmas. One may celebrate Kwanzaa and still celebrate Christmas. The significance of Kwanzaa comes with a full understanding of its meaning and living according to its principles. After the seven days of celebration, it is necessary to inculcate the principles into one's daily life throughout the year.
In celebrating the fullness of Kwanzaa, it is essential to know the basic principles and to strive to live according to them after the celebration ends on January 1st. The seven principles or the Nguzo Saba are Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).
Each day during the Kwanzaa celebration, a candle is lighted to memorialize a principle and this year, according to Chimbuko Tembo of the African American Cultural Center, there is a specific activity scheduled each day of the Kwanzaa week for the Kwanzaa Ujima Collective (KUC). The purpose of the KUC is to jointly plan, coordinate and organize Kwanzaa events in the city, which express and reaffirm the dignity, beauty and expansive meaning of the holiday. This year KUC will be celebrating the 43rd anniversary of Kwanzaa.
Each day there will be a candle lighting ceremony in conjunction with a specific activity demonstrating the meaning of Kwanzaa which will culminate in a special day of meditation, remembrance, reflection and recommitment to the highest human values - a quiet and peaceful time of turning inward (introspection).
A significant, yet simple and purposeful, examination of the seven principles can be readily discerned when carried into practice. To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race, seems so fundamentally pragmatic yet so elusive, specifically among African Americans, that it focuses directly on Umoja.
For a long time, there has been a need "to define and re-define ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves," and the need for self-determination becomes paramount because for too long have others spoken for Black people - history is replete with misrepresentations and inaccuracies that cries out for Kujichagulia.
The basic premise of life's fulfillment is derived from dutiful service, work and responsibility. When the community can tackle its problems together, there is a greater chance of success and outside influences will not be able to disrupt its Ujima.
Building and maintaining our own community demands a sense of cooperative economics and respect for each other. Malcolm X said, "The only progress we have made is as consumers. We still don't manufacture anything, we don't legislate for ourselves." The principle of Ujamaa could help change that.
Black people have never seemed to fully understand their traditional greatness. "Ebony" magazine recently wrote, "Not only did African Americans come from Africa, every human did." Having the understanding and the "purpose" of that statement will go a long way in implementing Nia in "our" lives.
Parents usually strive to impart the benefit of their worldly wealth and value system to their children in order to leave the community a better and more beautiful place than they found it. They live through their children and it is the flow of Kuumba that will guarantee human progress.
The elders hold a very sacred place along with parents as the leaders and teachers among Black people, and faith in the wisdom of their teachings will show the righteousness of "our" cause and lead to victory of "our" struggle. To benefit, as a community, from the principles of Kwanzaa, Imani is an integral element.
The successes and implementation of Kwanzaa could be gleaned from the struggle that it has taken to reach this point in its development as an African and Pan-African holiday. As Dr. Karenga has previously stated:
"I think it's also important to mention that Kwanzaa was not established because of petitions to the local, state of federal government to recognize it. On the contrary, we did not and would not seek permission or recognition to celebrate our own history and culture."