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Welcome to the International African American Museum! Advanced timed tickets are required for all visitors. Popular dates and times may be sold out.

Dec 24, 2023

What is Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration of African and African-American heritage and culture. It was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana Studies, and is observed from December 26th through January 1st each year.

Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba)

Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles:

  1. Umoja (Unity): Striving for and maintaining unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): Defining, naming, creating, and speaking for oneself.
  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): Building and maintaining the community together and solving problems as a group.
  4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): Building and maintaining retail stores and other businesses and profiting from them together.
  5. Nia (Purpose): Making a collective vocation of building and developing the community to restore its people to their traditional greatness.
  6. Kuumba (Creativity): Always doing as much as possible to leave the community more beautiful and beneficial than it was inherited.
  7. Imani (Faith): Believing in the people, the leaders, the teachers, and the righteousness and victory of the struggle.

Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa

There are seven symbols that represent concepts and themes of the holiday:

  1. Mazao (Crops): Represents the harvest and the rewards of productive and collective labor.
  2. Mkeka (Mat): A symbol of tradition and history, serving as the foundation upon which all else rests.
  3. Kinara (Candle Holder): Symbolizes the African ancestors and the lineage from which African-Americans descend.
  4. Mishumaa Saba (Seven Candles): These candles represent the seven principles of Kwanzaa, with three red candles on the left, three green on the right, and one black in the center.
  5. Kikombe cha Umoja (Unity Cup): Used in the libation ritual during the Karamu feast on December 31st, symbolizing unity.
  6. Zawadi (Gifts): These gifts, given mainly to children, symbolize the commitments made and kept, as well as the rewards of labor.
  7. Vibunzi (Ear of Corn): Each family displays Vibunzi (one ear of corn) for each child in the household, symbolizing the children and the future which they embody. The corn is a symbol of the growth of the family and future generations.

Kwanzaa is a time of both reflection and celebration, focusing on cultural values, community involvement, and personal growth. It is not a religious holiday, but rather a cultural one. Stay tuned for more details on December 26th for an enriching exploration of Umoja, the foundational principle celebrated on the inaugural day of Kwanzaa. This occasion offers a profound opportunity to delve into the essence of unity, a concept that beautifully encapsulates the spirit and intentions of this cultural festivity.