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7 Days of Kwanzaa

By Robert Lilly



December 26 is known for more than the passing of Christmas, for many millions of people across the globe that date marks the start of a 7 day affair of community empowerment called Kwanzaa. What exactly is Kwanzaa? Is it, as some believe in error, an African American Christmas? Far from it, Kwanzaa is a celebration of culture and the victory of struggle against massive historical efforts to erase the very mind of a people.{{more}} African Americans, need I remind you did not come to America willingly; we were brought here, in chains. Subsequently, to ensure perpetual control of this people the slave masters sought to separate them, as far from anything remotely identified with their past, with their land of origins, with their dignity, with their very identity. How was this done? It became essential to accomplish this end that no African could go unpunished if they spoke their original tongue. Names indigenous to the mother land were prohibited, as so too was education, it was illegal for a slave to both learn to read or to write, a crime that was often punished with maiming the victim or death; this was done to put fear in the other African slaves, thus preventing them from following the example set by the rebellious slave. The African slaves were dissuaded from worshiping as they One of Ayumbu Kanau’s grandaughters dances passionately in their celebration of Kwanza. To learn more about what they are doing, go to Photo by Sienna Millerhad done before contact with their European captors. This proscription was the same whether the slave was a Muslim, traditional worshipper or Christian, they were not trusted to develop a faith that would extend their servitude, so the master inserted his ideas into the very areas reserved only for a man and his God. In other words the African was denied the right to any form of self-determination. This was all done by a people who praised democracy and freedom. What a contradiction? We should never forget these things happened to us. That is, in part, what Kwanzaa has been created to achieve, a collective consciousness in a people that have been dispersed, due to slavery across, over one hundred countries. Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, the founder of both it and the organization that had, in the sixties, captured the imagination of thousands of brothers and sisters in Los Angeles California. Right after the Watts Rebellion, and in conjunction with the turmoil and tumult of that era, African Americans seemed to resolute not to be beat, once again into submission but rather to resurrect themselves and restore their community to its once glorious status. How this would be done would be through the implementation of the Nguzo Saba or the 7 Principles of Kwanzaa.

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