Kwanzaa: A Celebration of African American Family, Community and Culture
2005 Annual Founder's Kwanzaa Message

Professor Maulana Karenga2005

“ Kwanzaa: A Season of Celebration,
Meditation and Recommitment "

Dr. Maulana Karenga
Creator of Kwanzaa

With Kwanzaa comes a special season of celebration, meditation and recommitment. It brings to mind and sets in motion the ancient and uplifting practices of our ancestors gathering together in joyous and thankful harvest celebrations of the good in the world and the good of the world.  The good harvests of fields and forests, the good of family, friends and community, the good of life and the living of it fully, and the good of the world itself and all in it.  And so in emulation and honor of them, we too gather again together in joy and thankfulness to celebrate the awesome wonder and good of the world: the good given and the good received; the good anticipated and the good achieved; the good we find and bring forth in our families and ongoing friends; the good we create in our communities thru cooperation and collective effort and the good we weave into patterns of possibility and achievement out of the beautiful, ancient and indestructible cloth we call African culture. And always and everywhere we celebrate the good of life, the hope it harbors, the possibilities it promises and the joy it brings in our sharing on every level and in every rightful and rewarding way.

            In the tradition of our ancestors we too celebrate the awesome wonder and good of the natural world: the beauty and abundance of each season, the magnificence of mountains and meadows, the incalculable treasures of seas and lakes, morning mist over hills and valleys,  and the rivers running through them; the infinite yield of trees and plants in fruits and flowers; the rich diversity of peoples and all living creatures; and the fragile yet indispensable links of life that shape, build and bind us together in the world.  Thus, Kwanzaa calls on us to care deeply about and consistently for the well-being and wholeness of the world and everything in it.  And this means above all to engage always in life-enhancing and world-sustaining practices in our daily lives as well as in the larger world.  For in the final analysis, such life and world-respective practices are the ultimate and most meaningful celebration we can make.

            As a season of meditation, Kwanzaa is a time to pause and pay homage to our ancestors, to give rightful care and consideration to the important issues in our lives and the world and to think deeply and continuously about the meaning and responsibility of being African in the world.

            Certainly, the morality of memory cultivates in us a profound appreciation for our ancestors, who opened the way and cleared the paths for our safe and successful passage in the world and who taught us to constantly bring forth from inside ourselves, the best and most beautiful, to love and care for one another, to speak truth, do justice and always pursue the good.

            Moreover, in this season of meditation, we are taught to give rightful and sustained attention to the important issues that affect and shape the way we live and die in the world.  Those issues that loom large over the human horizon are those of war and peace; unfinished and ongoing struggles for freedom; the securing of human rights and civil liberties; the reduction and end of unnecessary and structured poverty; providing adequate health care and human services; uplifting the daily lives and raising the aspirations of the masses; creating and maintaining rightful relations with the environment, resisting white supremacist thrusts in the world and continuing the struggle for justice everywhere.

            Kwanzaa calls us also to recommit ourselves to our highest values.  Cultural values that create and sustain the good world we all want and deserve to live in. Kwanzaa calls for recommitment not only to embrace certain essential ethical values, but also to practice and promote them. Building on its origins in harvest celebrations, Kwanzaa carries within it the ancient African ethical teaching that if we sow seeds of goodness everywhere, cultivate them with care and loving kindness, we will reap a good harvest and that when we do we should share it with joy wherever and whenever we can. This call for the cooperative creating and sharing of good in the world is at the heart of the message and meaning of Kwanzaa.

            As our ancestors taught us in the Odu Ifa, we are all divinely chosen to bring good in the world and we must constantly and eagerly struggle to increase the good and not let any good be lost. To do this they taught, furthermore, we must not simply do good but love doing good, feel and know the joy and justice of doing good, the happiness it brings and the rightness of it for those who do it as well as those for whom it is done. 

            Certainly, during this special time of meditation, we must pause and pay homage to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the dead and the living. We must think deeply about the awesome tragedy and about its meaning to them, to us as a people, to this country and to our ongoing struggle for justice and good in the world. We must continue to insist that the dead be buried with dignity, praise the survivors for their courage and commitment to rebuild their lives and continue to aid them in their efforts. And we must continue to struggle for an accounting concerning the unconscionable official negligence and neglect that aggravated and intensified this the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history.  And this accounting can only come thru our commitment and recommitment to our highest cultural values and the ongoing struggle to achieve and secure the good they represent, promise and produce.

            Kwanzaa, then, is also a special time of recommitment, recommitment to our highest values and the struggle to bring, sustain and increase good in the world that the practice of these values promise.  Certainly, at the heart of these values are the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles of Kawaida philosophy and the hub and hinge on which the holiday Kwanzaa turns.  Each principle represents not only a central value but a certain practice necessary to achieve and enjoy good in the world. The principles are concerned with how we relate to each other and the world, how we understand and assert ourselves in the world to bring forth the good person and good relations which prefigure and make possible the good world we all want, deserve and struggle for.

            In a world where division, hatred and hostility hold sway and imperial wars are waged in the name of a want to be superior race/religion, self-congratulatory claims of saving civilization, the principle of Umoja (unity) teaches us to stand up, step forward in struggle to affirm the position of our foremother Anna Julia Cooper who said: “We take our stand on the solidarity of humanity, the oneness of life and the unnaturalness and injustice of all favoritisms.” Indeed, we stand against all claims of superiority and chosenness over others and instead affirm the truth of the teaching of the Odu Ifa that all humans are divinely chosen to bring good in the world and that they are chosen not over and against anyone, but chosen with everyone to bring, increase and sustain good in the world.

            In a world where the Europeanization of human culture and human consciousness presents itself as progress and globalizes coercive conformity under a myriad of masks and duplicitous messages, the principle of Kujichagulia (self-determination) affirms our ethical obligation to remain true and hold fast to the sacred legacy of our ancestors. This means we must embrace and embody in our daily thought and practice the vision and values that define our identity as Africans, cherish our culture as a unique and equal valuable way to be human in the world and to want and advocate no less for the peoples of the world.

            In a world and society which sanctions and supports degraded forms of individualism and thrives on ideas and actions of exploitation and oppression of others, the principle of Ujima (collective work and responsibility) teaches us to work together to build the good world we all want and to find common ground; all good comes from the gathering in harmony; reciprocity of men and women, family, community, society and world; doing good.

            In a society where greed has grown into virtue; the pursuit of profit has become unannounced religion and the claim of spurious right by military might to seize other people’s land and resources has been raised to a global policy, the principle of Ujamaa (cooperative economics) teaches us to share the work and wealth of the world. Moreover, it teaches us to resist any system or society which privileges power over social justice, the acquisition of profit over the interests of the people, and militarism and materialism over the moral responsibility to care for the vulnerable and be actively concerned with the well-being of the world.

            In a world and society where purpose is reduced to materialistic pursuits, defense against media and government-generated enemies and so many have lost their way and lack the will or knowledge to become and e partners in building the good society and world we all want and deserve to live in, the principle and practice of Nia (purpose) plays an indispensable role. For it teaches us to believe in and work for the good in the world, the right in the way we live and treat each other and the possible inside each of us, and it’s one who is constantly concerned about the needs of the people, who removes evil where we find it and who exalts good everywhere.

            In a world and society where destructiveness is national and international policy—where lands and lives are destroyed on a large and grotesque scale and the environment is little more than another field for plunder, pollution, and depletion of resources, Kuumba (creativity) teaches us that in a society where the barbaric practice of bloodletting as an official ritual of revenge posing as justice, we affirm the sacredness of life, the dignity and divinity of everyone regardless of any social standing he or she may have—Djedi.

            In a society where concerns and conversations about social justice have been replaced in many religious settings with focus and forums on personal prosperity and silence and inactivity around issues of war, poverty and peace, and in a society where belief in military might, material wealth and religion as an extension of racial claims to superiority rules, and where the gospel of social justice has been replaced with a gospel of personal prosperity, and the care for the vulnerable and poor give way to the construction of prestige projects, the principle and practice of Imani (faith) provides us with an ancient alternative, ethical way to understand and assert our lives in the world.  It is the sacred teaching of our ancestors that we should believe in the good, hold on to that which endures in the midst of that which is overthrown, to love one another; to welcome the stranger, to care for the ill, and aged, aid and reduce the poverty of the poor.

            Indeed, it teaches us to turn our faith in good into the love of doing good and to leave it as a legacy and storehouse from which those who come after can learn and enrich their lives.  We stand for faith infused with a hope that looks at and bey0ond the horrors and human suffering in the world and continues to believe in the goodness in humanity, the possibility we can indeed carve out of the hard rock of reality a world worthy of the names good, just.  A faith rooted in the urgent and ongoing needs and demands of the masses and pointing and moving defiantly toward a new history of humankind, a new way to relate and live together, constantly and cooperatively building and rebuilding the good world we want and deserve to live in.

December 2005