Here’s something you might not know: Even though it’s full of deeply rich traditions, Kwanzaa has only actually been around since 1966. Most people were surprised too! During the Civil Rights Movement, Kwanzaa founder Maulana Karenga, PhD, professor and chairman of Black studies at California State University, Long Beach, was determined to find a way to bring the African American community together to persevere through hardship. And that's how the week-long cultural celebration highlighting family, friends, and community was born. Despite its relatively new history, Kwanzaa is observed by millions of Black Americans in the United States and spans from December 26 through January 1. Each day of the week has a different word in Swahili to represent one of the seven core principles of the holiday: Umoja (unity) Kujichagulia (self-determination) Ujima (collective work and responsibility) Ujamaa (cooperative economics) Nia (purpose) Kuumba (creativity) Imani (faith) “[They’re] meant to be a guiding force for Americans of African descent,” says Kofi Hunter, cofounder of New York’s Kwanzaa Fest BK. “The principles, or the Nguzo Saba, are specifically designed to lead us in our journey toward liberation.”

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