Christmas and New Year might be the talking point for most people at the moment. But Kwanzaa is gaining interest from thousands of Black people in Nottinghamshire, Britain.
This new secular festival emerged in the 1970s when Black people began to challenge white cultural norms that failed to relieve oppressive discrimination and hardship.
Inspired by African traditions and Swahili concepts, they cast off their “slave names” for African-inspired ones, favouring Afro-textured hair, and African robes. The exchange of greetings “Habari Gani” – “What is the news” helps craft a distinctly Black consciousness.
“We scorned the “white” cultural stories about how the world worked, and we didn’t want any part of that. Why would we? We had our own Kwanzaa holiday” says Kwame Osei an Afrikan Historian and Director of East Midlands African-Caribbean Arts (EMACA).
Strengthening Family, Community Bonds
“Kwanzaa is a significant event in our calendar” he said. Every year from December 26 to January 1 Afrikan communities celebrate our cultural heritage, value and belief systems”.
Kwanzaa celebrations are filled with food, family. Symbolic flags pay tribute to the pan-Africanist goals of founder Professor Dr Maulenga Karenga and his adherents in America’s turbulent civil rights Sixties.
BLACK for the African people
RED, for the blood shed over the centuries
GREEN for their hopes for the future
African-inspired and family strengthening as it is, Kwanza celebrants offer a powerful message. They envision a new modern African diaspora not a return to an idyllic African past. Black people must develop their role within host societies.
That view is based on Kwanzaa’s seven principles: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).
Each is acknowledged with an offering of libations, lighting candles, eating and sharing food, reading poetry, sharing music and dance, and having people talk to and commune with each other.
NOTE: Black Britons are not alone in celebrating Kwanzaa. This secular festival and pan-Africanist theme of diaspora Black progress has attracted followers in indigenous and immigrant communities far and wide: in Brazil, France, Spain, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and the provinces of Canada.