First Kwanzaa December 26, 1966,Photo donated to BBC by Terri Bandele, pictured on right.
“What do the Africans do?” That is the question asked by a then-young girl, 11-year-old Terri Bandele, who was among the first families celebrating the first Kwanzaa celebration from Dec. 26, 1966 – Jan. 1, 1967. Her question and the organized determination of Dr. Maulana Karenga, Bandele’s parents and others, led to the creation of Kwanzaa, the pan-African and African American holiday that honors the “matunda ya kwanza” that means “first fruits” in Swahili.
Kwanzaa arrives December 26th — the day after the traditional Christmas Day — and culminates January 1st. It does not compete or replace any holiday, according to Dr. Karenga and many organizers. Nor does it compete with a longstanding January 1st celebration for U.S. Blacks and that is Jubilee Day.
Central to Kwanzaa’s purpose is its celebration among family, friends and communities. Today, millions celebrate Kwanzaa and its seven strong principles:
- The seven principles, or Nguzo Saba are a set of ideals created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Each day of Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle.
- 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.
At Atlanta’s Hillside International Truth Center, Executive Bishop/Senior Pastor, Dr. Jack Bomar, led the church celebration on Jan. 1, 2023, in honor of Kwanzaa’s final day. “We are gathered to celebrate our heritage and honor the spirit our ancestors,” said Bomar while pointing out the symbolic “first fruits” placed on the tables in the church’s smaller chapel. The King Chapel as it is known in honor of the church’s founder, Dr. Barbara Lewis King, was filled to capacity.
Hillside International Truth Center’s Kwanzaa celebration with first fruits, elders in prayer.
Jubilee Day. It began as a tradition of celebration on New Year’s Day 1863.
Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. Courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
The U.S. Government produced a booklet in December 1862 and it was ordered to be distributed by Union Soldiers to Blacks. It speaks of slavery as the “cornerstone” of tragedy.
Nearly two centuries ago, the historical depiction showcases the “jubilee” former slaves felt after their freedom was granted through the presidential act.
Today, church ceremonies such as the NAACP and Roaoke, Virginia community hold a commemorative service in honor of Jubilee Day.