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What Exactly is This Kwanzaa Thing That You Keep Talking About?


Tomorrow is the beginning of Kwanzaa, a seven-day celebration of shared values, in which we all strive to become better people and work to build a stronger local community. The holiday has African harvest festival roots; the name is derived from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza“, meaning “first fruits“, and lasts from December 26th through January 1st. Each new day highlights a different principle upon which we concentrate, such as sustaining our collective Umoja (Unity) and Imani (Faith).


5th Day of Kwanzaa: Nia


Each season I write about one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa; this year we will focus upon Nia (Purpose), which is highlighted on the fifth day. The original founders of the celebration defined Nia as collectively organizing together to improve our own neighborhoods and local communities. Our personal resolutions on this day could be anything from helping an elderly friend to go shopping, or offering to walk a neighbor’s dog, to cleaning up a trash dump to build a community garden, or cooperatively designing a public mural. The possibilities are endless — be creative.

Latona Community Garden

These are some of the neighborhood kids playing in Bayview’s Latona Community Garden.

Kwanzaa is not about purchasing stuff, consuming products or spending money. The basic foundations of Kwanzaa celebrate joining together, strengthening the quality our individual character, doing for others, and finding ways to improve the health of our larger community. This special time is not about going into debt to buy lots of crap that nobody needs; the meaningful focus of this tradition is inherently internal, local and sustainable. Happy Kwanzaa to you all.


Related Kwanzaa Articles:


First Day of Kwanzaa: Umoja and Time Banks

Second Principle of Kujichagulia, or Self-determination

Third Day of Kwanzaa: Ujima, Collective Work & Responsibility

Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics on the Fourth Day of Kwanzaa