Celebrating Kwanzaa has come a long way since its inception in 1966. When our store started celebrating in 1994, we had an intimate group meet in our first Oak Park location with about 35 parents and children. I remember telling the audience that we had children to thank for this gathering because many came in asking questions of our salespeople and their parents.
Kwanzaa, which means "first fruits" in Kiswahili, is celebrated for 7 days starting on December 26, 2020 this year. It is celebrated annually by most African Americans as a non-religious cultural Holiday to pay tribute to family, community, and heritage. The seven principles are: Umoja/Unity, Kujichagulia/Self Determination, Ujima/Collective Work and Responsibility, Ujamaa/Cooperative Economics, Nia/Purpose, Kuumba/Creativity, and Imani/Faith. The seven symbols are: Kinara, Cup (Kikombe Cha Umoja), Mat (Mkeka), Candles (Mishumaa Saba), Fruit/Crops (Mazao), Gifts (Zawadi), and Corn (Muhindi).
Children's books about Kwanzaa
The recognized creator of Kwanzaa, Maulana Karenga, has written a detailed and resourceful book on the history and cultural importance of the Holiday called, "Kwanzaa". It provides everything you ever wanted to know about the topic especially if you are preparing for a formal celebration. For teachers and parents who may not have the time to devote to the 143 page read, we've put together a number of books by Black authors that are geared for children. They summarize the symbols and principles and history of Kwanzaa. And while the detail of the books being written by black authors may seem like common sense, it should not to be presumed. I remember back in the early 2000's when Ebony magazine interviewed Afriware about Kwanzaa, the article mentioned its commercialized aspects listing JC Penny and Walmart's sale of some of the Kwanzaa items. We've remained very sensitive about this and always ask where the kinaras are sourced. This years batch are from Ghana.
The basics about the secular Holiday includes an explanation about the 3 pillars on which it is based: The 7 Principles, The 7 Symbols and the history behind the 7 Lettered spelling of Kwanzaa.
Going to the accompanying festivals during this time of year adds to the excitement of the Holiday though in 2020 during the pandemic, this may be relegated to online celebrations only. Kwanzaa principles can be incorporated into every month of the year since they can be applied to most day to day tasks. For example, one of the principles is "Purpose", or "Nia" in Swahili. It's important to know your purpose in life... and when shopping for groceries so you stay on track. All the principles have a very practical aspect that lends well to making them more digestible for younger audiences.
Seeking more information when curious is a great characteristic to have about a topic you're learning about. Everything isn't understood in one sitting, or from one book. Gather from the oral and written history to create your own understanding.
For more books on Kwanzaa and Kwanzaa kits click here.
Nzingha Nommo is the author of this blog. She is the owner of Afriware books and has held Kwanzaa celebrations there for over 20 years. Here's more information about her here.