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About Kwanzaa

Habari Gani? (traditional Kwanzaa greeting that means, What is the news?) Join us for this joyous African-American celebration of family and community. Experience the rich traditions of Kwanzaa featuring a celebration of African-American culture through hands-on activities, performances and food.

“Kwanzaa” is a Swahili word for “First Fruits of the Harvest.” The seven guiding principles of Kwanzaa Nguzo Saba are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith – all wonderful personal values to be reminded of as you start the new year.

What is Kwanzaa?

A celebration of family, community and culture, the word “Kwanzaa” comes from the African language Swahili and means “First Fruits of the Harvest.”  Kwanzaa is a 7-day, non-religious, non-political celebration of African-American culture and heritage that begins on December 26 and continues through January 1. Dr. Maulana Karenga created this day of celebration in 1965 as a synthesis of African Harvest Festivals.

Nguzo Saba: The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa

One principle is celebrated each day of the seven days of Kwanzaa. 

1st day - Umoja: Unity. On this day, we pledge to strive for – and to maintain – unity in the family, in the community and in the nation that we have helped to build.

2nd day - Kujichagulia. Self-determination. We pledge to define ourselves, to name ourselves, to create for ourselves, and to speak for ourselves.  On this day we design for ourselves a positive future and then vow to make that prophesy a self-fulfilling one.

3rd day - Ujima. Collective work and responsibility. On this day we celebrate working together in the community to help others.  For Ujima, we pledge to rebuild our communities and to help our neighbors work together to solve our problems.

4th day - Ujamaa
. Cooperative economics. We pledge to develop our own businesses and to support them, to maintain shops, stores and industry that contribute to the well being of our community.

5th day - Nia: Purpose. On this day, we pledge to build and develop our communities, our schools and our families.  We also pledge to provide a strong communal foundation from which our children can develop into strong and productive people.

6th day - Kuumba. Creativity. We pledge to make our communities and homes more beautiful and better than we found them.  We also pledge to use our creative talents and energies to improve young minds and hearts.

7th day - Imani. Faith On the seventh and last day of Kwanzaa, the beginning of the New Year, we pledge to believe with all our hearts and minds in our families, our teachers and leaders and in the greater good of the work we do with and for each other.

Annual Kwanzaa Celebration

Saturday, December 26
10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Free Museum admission and performances!

The African Roots of Jazz
11 a.m. & 1 p.m.
Discovery Theatre, presented by Wells Fargo
Please obtain your free performance ticket at the Front Desk prior to entering the theatre.There are a limited number for each show, and only ticket holders can be allowed into the theater.

Celebrate Kwanzaa throughout the Museum on December 26 with art projects inspired by the African continent and a Kwanzaa altar in the Museum’s Entry Pavilion. Renowned jazz drummer E. W. Wainwright and his ensemble, The African Roots of Jazz, take us on a musical journey that traces African-American musical forms, such as jazz, gospel, and spirituals, from their earliest beginnings in African cultures to today. The program features instrumental music, songs, theater, and audience participation.

Kwanzaa Altar

Displayed on our Kwanzaa Altar in the Entry Pavilion:

Mazao: Crops.
Symbolic of African harvest festivals and the rewards of collective labor.

Mkeka:  Straw mat.
Symbolic of tradition, history and the foundation of which we build.

Seven branched candelabra symbolic of our roots in continental Africa.

Symbolic of our children and the future they represent.

Mishumaa Saba: Seven Candles.
Symbolic of the seven principles and the values on which the holiday was created.

Kikombe cha Umoja: Unity cup.
Symbolic of the practice of Unity, which makes all else possible.

Zawadi: Handmade gifts.
Symbolic of the labor and love of parents and commitments made and kept by children.

Colors:Red – blood of African people
            Black – face of African people
            Green – hope for a new life

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