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Kwanzaa: A Celebration of African American Family, Community and Culture
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The Kwanzaa U.S. Commemorative Postage Stamp
The Official Kwanzaa Postage Stamp

Professor Maulana Karenga, Founder of Kwanzaa"Bringing Good Into the World"    

Statement at the U.S. Postal Service
Kwanzaa Stamp Release
Natural History Museum--October 22, 1997
Los Angeles, California


Dr. Maulana Karenga, Creator of Kwanzaa
Professor and Chair, Department of Black Studies, CSULB

  Ladies and Gentlemen, young girls and boys, distinguished guests in the audience and on the dais, this is surely a historic moment of marking and joyful celebration and I certainly view it with joyful satisfaction for my role in it. But in a larger sense, this historic moment belongs to all who made it possible. Indeed, in African tradition, we are taught that we should never claim solitary achievement. Not because we do not have and demonstrate personal initiative and creativity, but because we realize that in a real and profound sense all that we do bears the clear imprint of those who have touched and contributed to our lives and to each project we engage in in meaningful and decisive ways.

 

  This is the real meaning of Fannie Lou Hamer's teaching on the morality of memory when she says there are two things we all should care about and be attentive to "never to forget where we came from and always praise the bridges that carried us over." And so, whatever honor or hommage you extend to me today, I share with those who have made this holiday and historical moment possible and made me worthy to stand here.   This, then, is also a tribute to my family who brought me into being and sustain me; especially my wife, Tiamoyo, my companion in love and struggle and in all things good and beautiful; to my organization Us, the founding organization of Kwanzaa and the authoritative keeper of the tradition, which provides me with an indispensable context for collegial exchange and support and intellectual and creative challenge; to the many other friends and supporters around the country and indeed the world who also questioned and encouraged and who gave a little and a lot when and where it was needed.  

 

The honor belongs also to those of the world African community who saw in Kwanzaa a message of profound meaning and beauty, and embraced and practiced it. And it belongs to the ancestors who gave us the most ancient of cultures, one endlessly rich and varied in its models of excellence and possibilities and who speak across the ages in the Odu Ifa of Yorubaland saying, "surely humans have been chosen to bring good in the world" and in the Husia of ancient Egypt saying, we must come forward each day and bring forth the truth that is within each of us. Indeed they say in the Husia, "Doing good is not difficult, in fact, just speaking good is a monument for those who do it. For those who do good for others actually and also doing it for themselves." In creating Kwanzaa, I have tried to honor this ancient African teaching that the fundamental meaning and mission of human life is to constantly bring good into the world and that this good is always a shared good, a good which enriches those who give it as well as those who receive it.

 

The release of the Kwanzaa stamp by the U.S. Postal Service and the national and communal activities organized around it are a deserved recognition of the importance of Kwanzaa to African people throughout the world African community. Indeed, it represents the results of a beautiful act of cultural self- determination that caused the country and the world to recognize and respect both in a special way the holiday and the people who embrace it. Also, it represents another achievement in an ongoing struggle to express our right to be represented in all public space of recognition, respect and power, regardless of the institution.   Finally, it is a reaffirmation of the country's need to respect, celebrate and build on the rich resource of its diversity of peoples and cultures, to see itself as an ongoing multicultural project to create a truly just and good society; and to embrace an ethics of sharing - shared space, shared wealth, shared power and shared responsibility of all peoples -- African, Native American, Latino, Asian and European -- to conceive and build the world they want to live in.  

 

As an African American and Pan-African holiday celebrated by millions throughout the world African community, Kwanzaa brings a cultural message which is both particularly African and definitively human. In a word, it speaks to the best of what it means to be both African and human in its stress on the dignity of the human person, the well-being of family and community, the integrity of the environment and our kinship with it and the rich resource and meaning of a people's culture.   As a particular expression of being African in the world, Kwanzaa speaks our special cultural truth to the world and thus offers a significant contribution to defining and teaching appreciation for valuable and differing ways of being human in the world. Certainly, there is value both for the world African community and humanity as a whole in Kwanzaa's five fundamental kinds of activities: harmonious ingathering of the people, special reverence for the Creator and Creation; reflective commemoration of the past; profound recommitment to our highest cultural ideals; and joyous celebration of the Good.  

 

Likewise, the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles) of Kwanzaa have a particular and universal value and meaning in their call for thoughtful and practical commitment to: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).   On the last day of Kwanzaa, Imani which we also call the Day of Meditation, we ask ourselves three questions which Kawaida philosophy says everyone must ask themselves: who am I, am I really who I am and am I all I ought to be? In our constant quest to become and be the best of what it means to be both African and human at the same time, Kwanzaa offers an important context for reassessment and recommitment to values and practices which lead to this. It thus speaks a special message of Africa not only to Africans but to all people concerned with reaffirming family, community and culture, and in realizing that essential meaning and purpose of human life, that is to say, constantly bringing good in the world.  

 

I have tried to bring good into the world, not only in creating Kwanzaa, but in all I do. May my mother and father and the other ancestors always be pleased and smile on me and may my community always bear witness to my efforts. For any good I've done, theirs is the honor, mine is the joyful satisfaction of having done it. And so in the tradition of the ancestors, I lift up my arms in joyful satisfaction. And I ask you in this historic moment to join me and life up your arms in joyful satisfaction also. Hotep. Ase. Heri.

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