WHAT IS KWANZAA ? The word kwanzaa is Swahili and means +quot;first fruits of the harvest.

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

WHAT IS KWANZAA ? The word kwanzaa is Swahili and means "first fruits of the harvest." The celebration named Kwanzaa is an Afrikan-American holiday that was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga. This unique seven-day celebration, beginning December 26th and ending January 1st, pays tribute to Americans of Afrikan descent across the nation. It doesn't replace Christmas. Rather, it adds a time to give reminder of seven principles, one for each of the seven days. These all have Swahili names and are: Umoja, or Unity Kujichagulia or Self-determination Ujima, or Responsibility Ujamaa, or Cooperative economics Nia, or Purpose Kuumba, or Creativity Imani, or Faith Many children in public schools now learn about Kwanzaa as one of the important celebrations of the December holiday season. Some Unitarian Universalist churches celebrate Kwanzaa on the first Sunday after Christmas, often making it a fun program with storytelling, African musicians, African foods, a talk on the meaning of Kwanzaa, and the like. But some UUs and Humanists might wonder if Kwanzaa is as secular or "non-religious" as media coverage sometimes indicates. In truth, Kwanzaa has some Humanism in its history. It all began when a Black Civil Rights activist of the late 1960s named Maulana Ron Karenga formed the opinion that Black people needed a non-supernatural religion to unify them culturally. So he created a new faith-system, complete with holidays, one holiday of which was Kwanzaa. Though Karenga's new religion didn't quite catch on, the holiday of Kwanzaa did. The Humanist connection comes from Karenga's incarceration at the Men's Colony at San Luis Obispo, and later when he was transferred to Vacaville -- both being medium-security prisons in California. Local Amrican Humanist Association chapter leaders in San Luis Obispo, and later in San Jose, helped form a Humanist Chapter at these institutions. And Karenga was the inmate head of the AHA "Humanist Chapter at Men's Colony" in the late 1960's and early 1970's. During that era, the Nation of Islam was a big contender for the religious allegiance of progressive young Blacks. But Karenga opposed them, viewing Islam as the same sort of supernatural and superstitious "spookism" that had gotten Black people into their oppressed predicament. He was also aware that Muslims had sold Blacks to the White Christian slave traders who then brought them to America and elsewhere. So, it was in a Humanist context that Karenga more fully developed and promoted his new cultural religion. (Bruce Miller and Orloff Miller were the AHA contacts with Karenga in San Luis Obispo. Art Jackson was involved with the San Jose/Vacaville connection.) Later, upon release, Karenga earned a doctorate degree from United States International University and went on to become a professor of Black studies. A committed and forceful individual, Karenga has been an effective promoter of his ideas -- hence the growing popularity of this late 20th Century holiday.


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank