Kwanzaa: From Holiday to Every Day




Traditionally, Kwanzaa brings family, friends, and the community together for a winter celebration. But Kwanzaa can be a part of your life year round. The twenty million people of African descent who celebrate this holiday steeped in cultural richness observe the holiday for its seven principles-principles that inspire the individual and promote community. Whether you're a ...

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Traditionally, Kwanzaa brings family, friends, and the community together for a winter celebration. But Kwanzaa can be a part of your life year round. The twenty million people of African descent who celebrate this holiday steeped in cultural richness observe the holiday for its seven principles-principles that inspire the individual and promote community. Whether you're a first-time celebrant or a seasoned veteran, Kwanzaa: From Holiday to Every Day is a must-have reference for making Kwanzaa special for you and your loved ones. With this book, you'll learn:

• Planning for daily observance and festive gatherings
• The seven principles at the heart of Kwanzaa.
• How to involve everyone in your Karamu (feast)
• Recipes for traditional dishes you can make at home.
• Zawadi (gifts) that reflect your values.
• Popular Kwanzaa songs and even one Kwanzaa rap.
• Where to find the best Kwanzaa accessories
• And more!

Let Kwanzaa: From Holiday to Every Day show you how to turn your Kwanzaa observance into a way of life to enrich your family, friends, and community.

"Of the several books on Kwanzaa, few are invested with such utility as Maitefa Angaza's thorough-going discussion and analysis.a meaningful, wonderful guide."

-Herb Boyd, author of We Shall Overcome: The History of the Civil Rights Movement As It Happened

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780758216656
  • Publisher: Kensington
  • Publication date: 9/24/2013
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 985,033
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Maitefa Angaza is the managing editor of African Voices, a nationally distributed Black literary and visual arts quarterly, and was former executive editor of The City Sun newspaper. She also works as a freelance journalist and editor and does some PR writing. Maitefa and her family have celebrated Kwanzaa for over 30 years and she has written on the subject for various publications. Her articles and reviews have also been published in Essence, Black Issues Book Review, The Network Journal, The Amsterdam News, Our Time Press, and other publications. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York, where she was born and raised.
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Table of Contents


Chapter One: Birth of a Giant....................1
Chapter Two: The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa....................17
Chapter Three: Preparing an Authentic Celebration....................45
Chapter Four: The Kwanzaa Ceremony....................69
Chapter Five: A Festive Kwanzaa Karamu....................81
Chapter Six: Recipes for the Feast....................97
Chapter Seven: Kwanzaa Songs Carry the Message....................125
Chapter Eight: Living and Working Kwanzaa All Year....................137
Chapter Nine: Kwanzaa Resources....................185
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First Chapter


From Holiday to Every Day
By Maitefa Angaza


Copyright © 2007 Maitefa Angaza
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-1665-6

Chapter One

Birth of a Giant

Kwanzaa at forty-one years old remains vibrant and growing in relevance. Throughout North America and in areas of South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe, it's won devoted adherents. In fact, it is said that more than 20 million people across the world now gather with family and friends to light the candles, sing the songs, and rededicate themselves to the life-affirming values at Kwanzaa's core. These values are the Nguzo Saba, or Seven Principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

Dr. Ron Karenga, widely referred to by the title "Maulana" (which means "master teacher" in the Kiswahili language), is Kwanzaa's creator. He is director of the Kawaida Institute for Pan-African Studies in Los Angeles, California, and the longtime and now retired chair of the Department of Black Studies at California State University Long Beach. Kwanzaa was conceived in 1966, in the wake of the Watts riots of the previous year, when Karenga sought to equip his people with tools of hope. Generations of African Americans had been subject to racist discrimination and its attendantpoverty, substandard education, brutality, and overall disenfranchisement. Anger and desperation eventually erupted on city streets nationwide. To help channel this rage into productive, self-engendered action, Karenga founded the Black Nationalist organization. Its members mobilized in the Los Angeles area to expand the political awareness of the people.

Seeking what Karenga termed "operational unity," US also worked along with similar organizations established across the United States and abroad to build institutions, service the community, provide independent schools and rites of passage programs for youth, demand and develop Black Studies programs in colleges and universities, and protest the Vietnam War, among other things.

Dr. Karenga also held the conviction that Black people would do well to explore the rich resources of traditional African culture and ethics in their quest for liberated minds and lives. He created the Nguzo Saba, which would soon after serve as a centerpiece of his Doctrine of Kawaida, a treatise on "tradition and reason." In the Doctrine he called for a cultural revolution to aid in "the thought and practice of freedom." This new way of thinking and acting would serve to oppose all forms of subjugation, Karenga hoped. It would be a vehicle through which people of African descent could continue to gift the world with their unique expressions of humanity.

* * *

The Very First Kwanzaa

Imagine that the first Kwanzaa celebration was held in your own living room! Loyce Foucher, now age seventy-two, opened her Oakland, California, home for a candle-lighting ceremony, and 20 million people followed her suit. Foucher, who went by "Malika" at the time, and her former husband, Bob Bowen, headed the Institute for Black Studies, which hosted a writing group, art shows, and live theater, and Foucher conducted reading and drama workshops for children. The couple's son, Michael Bowen, held up the letter "z" at that first Kwanzaa celebration and appeared on the cover of Life magazine at age six as a Young Simba (junior revolutionary in training). Now a member of the Republican Party, he is the founder of the Conservative Brotherhood and a prolific blogger who, interestingly, wages a vigorous and consistent defense of Kwanzaa on his "Cobb Report" blog. He still celebrates the holiday and is raising his own children to know the full meaning of the Nguzo Saba.

Although Foucher and her former husband never joined the US organization, she first met Karenga when she attended his Kiswahili language class at a local high school. She recalls him visiting their home on a few occasions, which likely led to her family's hosting of the Kwanzaa ceremony. Foucher admits that her recollection of the gathering is limited, but a few memories do remain.

"We celebrated in as African a style as we could," she says, "sitting on the floor with low tables. Everyone was dressed in African attire and brought various dishes to make up the menu. We talked about the Seven Principles and lit a candle each night, I think."

Foucher is proud of the impact of her family's work and is philosophical as she looks back. Shortly after that first Kwanzaa, she repudiated the Black Power movement and since then has lived as a devout Christian.

"In my venture into Black Nationalism, my primary search was for truth," she says, "truth that would explain the world to me in a way that made sense."

The gathering at Foucher's home left a lasting impression on a young man she didn't know at the time. Wesley Sikivu Kabaila, raised in Englewood, New Jersey, was a freshman at Los Angeles City College. He remembers going along with his new friends to hear Karenga speak at a local event and was invited to the Kwanzaa gathering. Kabaila would go on to become the vice chair of the US organization, which he left in the mid-1980s. The event that Foucher remembers in simple terms struck the young student as being "elaborate."

"It was a revelation!" he says. "I'd never experienced anything like it. Karenga presided, as well as some of his associates. I think the general idea was centered around the children, to give them something African-centered to do during that holiday season. We never anticipated that it would grow the way that it has."

"Some parents were skeptical" at first, Kabaila recalls. "They weren't certain they wanted their children involved. But as Kwanzaa began to gain in popularity, people identified with it and resonated with its significance. It didn't offend anyone's religious beliefs because it was a cultural holiday. The whole emphasis was on Africa and getting back to our traditions."

Kabaila remained in California, where he attends the Kwanzaa parade each year. He'd like to thank Loyce Foucher and her family for allowing him to play a small part in history.

* * *

In the interest of providing a social tool to aid in this reclaiming of African culture, Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966. Structured around his Nguzo Saba to provide seven principles for living and a celebration rich in significance, it was inspired by traditional harvest festivities. Indigenous Africans across the continent were historically wedded to the land as a source not only of sustenance, but also of identity and inspiration. They would take time at the close of an agricultural season to express their appreciation to the Creator for life's gifts and for one another.

These harvest celebrations varied from place to place, from the Yam Festival of Ghana to the Kambala celebrated by the Nuba people of Sudan. They all involved, however, taking stock of the challenges faced and the progress made by the community, as well as a recommitment to facing the future as a healthy, highly functioning whole. Community members would gather to joyfully share the fruits of their labor. Delicious traditional dishes would be prepared using the produce of the land, and the festive music, dance, and dress were both reward and incentive-a good time could be had by all, if all were willing to contribute. Although many people of African descent no longer grow their own food, Kwanzaa maintains the agricultural reference as more than a metaphor. Ownership of land remains an issue of importance in many Black communities the world over. It is a link to the ancestors of the lineage and a critical factor in the prospects for the future of the people.

Along with the Nguzo Saba, Karenga also identified five fundamental concepts underlying the intent and application of the Kwanzaa holiday. They are not an addendum to the Seven Principles, but a framework that celebrants can use to ensure an authentic Kwanzaa observance. The five fundamentals are:

Unity of family, friends, and community

Reverence for the Creator and Creation, encompassing an appreciation of, and respect for, the environment

Commemoration of the past, which includes honoring one's ancestors and valuing one's heritage

Commitment to the cultural ideals of the African community, including truth, justice, and mutual respect

A celebration of the "Good of Life" and appreciation for the blessings of achievement, family, and community

An Ancient Practice Adapted for a New Day

The word "Kwanza" means "first" in the Kiswahili language, which was chosen because it is spoken as either a first or a second tongue by close to 50 million people in Eastern, Central, and parts of Southern Africa. Subtitling his creation "The Celebration of the First Fruits" (Matunda ya Kwanza), Karenga placed an additional "a" at the end of "Kwanza," forming a seven-letter word to resonate with the foundational Seven Principles at the heart of the Doctrine of Kawaida. One former US member, who was present at the very first Kwanzaa celebration, remembers that there was an additional incentive for the extra "a." He says that seven of the members' children were preparing a Kwanzaa presentation and each wanted to represent a letter of the word.

Today Kwanzaa delights millions of children across the globe, and those first celebrants are amazed at the life it's claimed as its own. Karenga has traveled to speak in several foreign countries and shares his founder's message in cities across the nation each year. The National Association of Kawaida Organizations (NAKO) hosts annual Kawaida symposiums on the theory and practice of the doctrine created around the Nguzo Saba. In South Africa, far from its origins but close in application to a traditional Zululand harvest festival, Kwanzaa is observed by longtime celebrants such as music legends Caiphus Semenya and his wife, Letta Mbulu.

* * *

Putting His Stamp on Kwanzaa

Artist Daniel Minter is the designer of the second U.S. Postal Kwanzaa stamp, issued in 2004, and his proud, colorful figures have become a familiar sight to many. (The first stamp, issued in 1997, was designed by artist and author Synthia St. James.) Here, in edited form, is Minter's statement on this small work that is large in significance and limitless in exposure potential:

"Two mothers, Imani and Nia, are holding the community together. One is a physical mother, and one a spiritual mother. Both wear crowns of fabric to distinguish themselves and atop each crown is a Sankofa bird [which] looks to the past to understand the present, and never forgets from where it came. They are Kuumba, ready to fly. The other five figures look to the left, the right, forward and back, they look to each other. They are Umoja and Ujamaa. They all wear robes that are blowing in the wind like flags, all moving in the same direction, represent[ing] Kujichagulia.

"The colors red, black, green, gold and yellow represent the continent of Africa. Red is for the blood that we have shed, black is for our people, green is for the land and growth, gold is for wealth and prosperity, and yellow is for the sun, or the future. The blue in the center represents the mother, the source of life, the ocean. When these colors and patterns are displayed together on the stamp panel, they form a quilt of the sort that our mothers and grandmothers made." Find out more online at

* * *

The rapid growth of Kwanzaa was due, in large part, to its being promulgated in the 1970s as part of the practice of Kawaida. Members of the Congress of Afrikan Peoples, most notably Amiri Baraka, then of New Jersey's Committee for a Unified Newark, Jitu Weusi of The East organization in Brooklyn, New York, and Haki Madhubuti of the Institute for Positive Education in Chicago, made sure that the word was spread throughout their cities and later across the nation.

There are now all manner of initiatives named after the holiday, such as: A.P.C.K. Kwanzaa, an organization based in Paris, France, that promotes the holiday and its principles; KwanzaaCameroon, the youthmentoring program in that African nation; Kwanzaa-The Afrikan Shop, a retail outlet with a cultural mission in Aotearoa/New Zealand; and the Kwanzaa Playground in Columbus, Ohio. There are also any number of programs bearing the names of the Seven Principles, including: the Umoja Festival in Portsmouth, Virginia; Kujichagulia Lutheran Center in Milwaukee; Ujima Housing Association of London; Ujamaa School in Washington, D.C.; Nia Comprehensive Center for Developmental Disabilities in Chicago; the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College; and Imani Winds, a New York City-based African American/Latino quintet.

There are children named Nia, Imani, and zawadi, people whose first or last names are Umoja, and a woman named Mama Kuumba, who until her passing in 2004, served as a faithful Kwanzaa ambassador in New York City. Other examples include jazz, R&B, classical and choral compositions, dance troupes, theater companies, lesson plans, antiviolence initiatives, substance abuse prevention programs, holiday expos, a U.S. postage stamp, books, games, dolls, videos, summer camps, and even a lion in a Birmingham, Alabama, zoo. Whatever one thinks of this trend, it's clearly in evidence: all the abovementioned are named for Kwanzaa concepts, with many inspired by, and some devoted to, its principles. A chord has been struck, and its reverberations have stirred communities worldwide.

As Kwanzaa is the celebration of the "first fruits," it's a time to give thanks for the harvest of ideas we've brought to life and the sacrifices we've made in the year now coming to a close. At Kwanzaa time we look within to determine where we are on our life's journey, where we stand in relation to our community, and what we've done to advance those values we hold highest. We do this both singularly, in the sanctuary of our quiet moments, and together with family, friends, and colleagues during joyous celebrations. These private and public reflections help us to set our compasses for the year ahead; although our mistakes may give pause, when contemplating our blessings, we give thanks.

* * *

Kwanzaa Greetings from Chicago

Yakini "Charles" Haynes and Kenyetta Giles Haynes, owners of the Ankh juice bar in Chicago, Illinois, have celebrated Kwanzaa for approximately twenty years.

"While we strive to practice the principles as part of our daily existence," says Yakini, "we appreciate setting aside time to reaffirm and rededicate ourselves to a purposeful way of life. We feel happy, blessed, and rejuvenated."

The couple does the candle-lighting ceremony together each evening, makes it a point to send Kwanzaa cards each year, and encourages friends to attend events where they can learn more about the holiday and participate in celebrating it. They enjoy attending several of the week-long events held across the city, particularly those held at their house of worship, the Trinity United Church of Christ, for which, they say, people travel from near and far. The church hosts special guest speakers, has a daily sermon based on the Nguzo Saba, and holds a much anticipated Imani celebration.

The Hayneses will, from time to time, host a gathering at their home for friends, family, and extended family. During the karamu there's lots of laughter, food, and good music in the background.

"We form a unity circle and encourage children to share a cultural expression or make a general statement about a Kwanzaa principle and what it means to them," says Kenyetta.

"Adults and children are invited to read or recite a poem, sing, do a dramatic or interpretive dance," adds Yakini. "At the end we play a few rounds of 'Black Facts' or some sort of African history game for prizes like books, greeting cards, and CDs. Kenyetta's mother, Etta Wheeler Giles, gave us a copy of The African American Book of Values: Classic Moral Stories by Steven Barboza a few years ago. It has been an indispensable resource for classic works to share with our guests. We've had some very colorful performances. One year a family member adapted the song 'Teach Me Tonight' for a family audience and applied it to the Seven Principles."

The Haynes family starts the new year infused with the energy gained from a meaningful holiday season.

"We attempt to incorporate the positive energy generated from family, friends, cultural activities, educators, spiritual leaders, lecturers, books, films, music, etc., into what we do and what we feel we are called to do," says Kenyetta. "We try to live in a more balanced, purposeful, and meaningful way." Contact Ankh at (312) 834-0530 or


Excerpted from Kwanzaa by Maitefa Angaza Copyright © 2007 by Maitefa Angaza. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2007

    Seven Days, Seven Principles... It's Kwanzaa Time All Year-Round!

    I thoroughly recommend this book to everyone! Were I able to give it 6 stars, I would have given it 7. This book is not simply a nice read... it is an Absolute Need. Seriously, this piece comes at a time when our communities & our families are in dire need of self-realization and a reconnection to the roots and core values that make African people unique. One of the things that was most impressive to me was the level of research that was done to compile this work. Who knew that so many people in so many countries across the world are celebrating Kwanzaa and adapting it's principles. Myself and my mate have even discussed beginning to travel each year during the holiday so that we may expose this tradition to our children as it is celebrated throughout the world. If you have never celebrated Kwanzaa, have celebrated all your life or think that this book is not for you... Buy this book! It is for you and you will absolutely not be dissapointed. The Resource pages toward the back are worth the purchase alone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2007

    It's All Good

    The principles exponded by the Kwanzaa experience is expected to be conducted all year long. Kwanzaa week is a reminder and celebration of our daily obligations to self and community. Kwanzaa week is also time to reaffirm committments and provides an opoportunity to reassess where we could have enhanced our lives and our community with renewed focus. This book remindes one of the ease with which to live the principles daily which are positive, empowering,and constructive. You can't go wrong!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2007

    An Historic (from soup to nuts) Kwanzaa Manual

    Talk about a complete guide, no stone is unturned. Maitefa Angaza has written an historical publication including a network of supportive references and resources. This is a true from soup to nuts Kwanzaa manual. Yes with recipes to boot!! It documents the first Kwanzaa celebration and definitively gives a thorough history on how and who initially promoted the seven day holiday across the nation and around the world. The author's own family Kwanzaa celebrations span decades. Her own family unit is itself a living example of how practicing The Nguzo Saba, 'the seven principles of Kwanzaa' created by Dr. Ron Karenga 'the creator of Kwanzaa' builds and strengthens an African American community and therefore gives first-hand credibility to her published work. Raise your unity cup to this, historically authentic and inspirational guide on Kwanzaa, the nation building holiday. In addition, I highly recommend 'Kwanzaa, From Holiday to Everyday' to all the educational institutions across the country, deflate the mystic and get it right.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2007

    The Reason for the Season

    This book reminds us of how Kwanzaa is more than just another holiday season. It is a reminder of the ways in which we can celebrate our past, grow in the present and prepare for a greater future. Thank you Ms. Maitefa Angaza!

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