Kwanzaa 2017

Kwanzaa

Happy-Kwanzaa-2017

II Thessalonians 2:15

“So then, brothers and sisters stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you,

whether by word of mouth or by letter. “

What Is Kwanzaa?

From Encarta Africana                                                                                                                 

Kwanzaa is a seven-day holiday that begins on Dec. 26 and continues through Jan. 1. The name of the holiday comes from the Swahili words matunda ya kwanza, which mean “first fruits.” The holiday’s roots are in harvest celebrations that are recorded from the earliest periods of African, particularly, West African history. These celebrations bear various names that reflect the languages of the societies that have celebrated them as well as those that still celebrate them many other African cultures and traditions.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 in the United States by Maulana Karenga, an activist/scholar who is currently professor and chair of the Department of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach. Rooted in ancient African history and culture, Kwanzaa was developed in the modern context of African American life and struggle as a reconstructed and expanded African tradition. It emerged during the Black Freedom Movement of the 1960s and thus reflects the movement’s concern for self-determination, a “return to the source,” and the reaffirmation of African identity and culture. Moreover, Kwanzaa is founded and framed in Kawaida philosophy, which stresses cultural grounding, value orientation, and an ongoing dialogue with African culture—both continental and diaspora—in pursuit of paradigms of human excellence and human possibility. First celebrated by members and friends of the Organization Us (meaning us African people), which Karenga chairs, Kwanzaa is currently celebrated by an estimated 26 million people on every continent in the world.

As explained in Karenga’s  ‘Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture, Kwanzaa is organized around five fundamental kinds of activities (1) the ingathering of the people to reinforce the bonds between them, especially the bonds of family, community, and culture; (2) special reverence for the Creator and creation in gratitude for the bountifulness and goodness of the earth and in commitment to preserve and protect it; (3) commemoration of the past, to fulfill the obligation to remember and honor ancestors and to teach and reaffirm the mission and meaning of African history; (4) recommitment to the highest African cultural values — ethical and spiritual values that bring forth the best of what it means to be African and human; and (5) celebration of the good of life — that is, the good of family, community, and culture; of relationships; of old age and youth; of knowledge and sharing; of work and wonder; and of all things of benefit and blessing.

At the heart of the meaning and activities of Kwanzaa are the Nguzo Saba (the seven principles), to reaffirm and strengthen family, community, and culture. Each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the principles and is organized around activities and discussion to emphasize that principle.

At each evening meal during Kwanzaa, family members light one of seven candles to focus on the principles in a ritual called “lifting up the light that lasts.” This lifting-up means upholding the Nguzo Saba and all the other life-affirming and enduring principles that reaffirm the good of life, enrich human relations, and support human flourishing. In addition to the mishumaa saba (seven candles), the other basic symbols of Kwanzaa are the mazao (crops), symbolic of African harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor; the mkeka (mat), symbolic of tradition and history and therefore the foundation on which to build; the kinara (candleholder), symbolic of ancestral roots and the parent people, or continental Africans; muhindi (corn), symbolic of children and the future of African people that they embody; the kikombe cha umoja (unity cup), symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity that makes all else possible; and zawadi (gifts), symbolic of the labor and love of parents and of the commitments made and kept by children.

There are also two supplemental symbols: a representation of the Nguzo Saba and the bendera (flag), which contains the colors black, red, and green. These colors are symbolic, respectively, of African people, their struggle, and the promise and future that come from their struggle. A central and culminating event of the holiday is the gathering of the community on Dec. 31 for an African karamu (feast). The karamu features libation and other ceremonies that honor ancestors, narratives, poetry, music, dance, and other performances to celebrate the goodness of life, relationships, and cultural grounding.

Kwanzaa ends Jan. 1 with the Siku ya Taamuli (Day of Meditation), which is dedicated to sober self-assessment and recommitment to the Nguzo Saba and all other African values that reaffirm commitment to the dignity and rights of the human person, the well-being of family and community, the integrity and value of the environment, and the reciprocal solidarity and common interests of humanity. One way that persons conduct this self-assessment is to ask themselves three questions: Who am I? Am I really who I am? Am I all I ought to be? In this way, they measure themselves in the mirror of the best of African culture and history and recommit themselves to standards and practices of human excellence that reflect and support those cultural ideals.

The question comes quite often, “So what does this all mean?  As a Christian, why do you observe Kwanzaa?  It’s not a religious holiday.”  My response goes something like this.  Kwanzaa is an attempt at a collective cultural conscious centered ritual that allows for as many as would observe and participate a collective reaction and response.  In other words, we are invited to engage in the process of recovery of a loss African cultural identity.  And as it is related to my faith and particularly my Christian faith, my cultural/racial identity is inextricably wrapped together with my faithful commitment to God and the life example of Jesus.  For me there is no disconnection, culture and faith, faith and culture with who I know myself to be and becoming.

So my prayer for you is that you are so moved to engage in some conscious way to the project of recovery.  No matter the process, no matter the set of rituals and concepts, the project is one of deep significance and deep meaning.

Happy Kwanzaa!

Bishop JS

 

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Kwanzaa 2017

Kwanzaa

Happy-Kwanzaa-2017

II Thessalonians 2:15

“So then, brothers and sisters stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you,

whether by word of mouth or by letter. “

What Is Kwanzaa?

From Encarta Africana                                                                                                                 

Kwanzaa is a seven-day holiday that begins on Dec. 26 and continues through Jan. 1. The name of the holiday comes from the Swahili words matunda ya kwanza, which mean “first fruits.” The holiday’s roots are in harvest celebrations that are recorded from the earliest periods of African, particularly, West African history. These celebrations bear various names that reflect the languages of the societies that have celebrated them as well as those that still celebrate them many other African cultures and traditions.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 in the United States by Maulana Karenga, an activist/scholar who is currently professor and chair of the Department of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach. Rooted in ancient African history and culture, Kwanzaa was developed in the modern context of African American life and struggle as a reconstructed and expanded African tradition. It emerged during the Black Freedom Movement of the 1960s and thus reflects the movement’s concern for self-determination, a “return to the source,” and the reaffirmation of African identity and culture. Moreover, Kwanzaa is founded and framed in Kawaida philosophy, which stresses cultural grounding, value orientation, and an ongoing dialogue with African culture—both continental and diaspora—in pursuit of paradigms of human excellence and human possibility. First celebrated by members and friends of the Organization Us (meaning us African people), which Karenga chairs, Kwanzaa is currently celebrated by an estimated 26 million people on every continent in the world.

As explained in Karenga’s  ‘Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture, Kwanzaa is organized around five fundamental kinds of activities (1) the ingathering of the people to reinforce the bonds between them, especially the bonds of family, community, and culture; (2) special reverence for the Creator and creation in gratitude for the bountifulness and goodness of the earth and in commitment to preserve and protect it; (3) commemoration of the past, to fulfill the obligation to remember and honor ancestors and to teach and reaffirm the mission and meaning of African history; (4) recommitment to the highest African cultural values — ethical and spiritual values that bring forth the best of what it means to be African and human; and (5) celebration of the good of life — that is, the good of family, community, and culture; of relationships; of old age and youth; of knowledge and sharing; of work and wonder; and of all things of benefit and blessing.

At the heart of the meaning and activities of Kwanzaa are the Nguzo Saba (the seven principles), to reaffirm and strengthen family, community, and culture. Each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the principles and is organized around activities and discussion to emphasize that principle.

At each evening meal during Kwanzaa, family members light one of seven candles to focus on the principles in a ritual called “lifting up the light that lasts.” This lifting-up means upholding the Nguzo Saba and all the other life-affirming and enduring principles that reaffirm the good of life, enrich human relations, and support human flourishing. In addition to the mishumaa saba (seven candles), the other basic symbols of Kwanzaa are the mazao (crops), symbolic of African harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor; the mkeka (mat), symbolic of tradition and history and therefore the foundation on which to build; the kinara (candleholder), symbolic of ancestral roots and the parent people, or continental Africans; muhindi (corn), symbolic of children and the future of African people that they embody; the kikombe cha umoja (unity cup), symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity that makes all else possible; and zawadi (gifts), symbolic of the labor and love of parents and of the commitments made and kept by children.

There are also two supplemental symbols: a representation of the Nguzo Saba and the bendera (flag), which contains the colors black, red, and green. These colors are symbolic, respectively, of African people, their struggle, and the promise and future that come from their struggle. A central and culminating event of the holiday is the gathering of the community on Dec. 31 for an African karamu (feast). The karamu features libation and other ceremonies that honor ancestors, narratives, poetry, music, dance, and other performances to celebrate the goodness of life, relationships, and cultural grounding.

Kwanzaa ends Jan. 1 with the Siku ya Taamuli (Day of Meditation), which is dedicated to sober self-assessment and recommitment to the Nguzo Saba and all other African values that reaffirm commitment to the dignity and rights of the human person, the well-being of family and community, the integrity and value of the environment, and the reciprocal solidarity and common interests of humanity. One way that persons conduct this self-assessment is to ask themselves three questions: Who am I? Am I really who I am? Am I all I ought to be? In this way, they measure themselves in the mirror of the best of African culture and history and recommit themselves to standards and practices of human excellence that reflect and support those cultural ideals.

The question comes quite often, “So what does this all mean?  As a Christian, why do you observe Kwanzaa?  It’s not a religious holiday.”  My response goes something like this.  Kwanzaa is an attempt at a collective cultural conscious centered ritual that allows for as many as would observe and participate a collective reaction and response.  In other words, we are invited to engage in the process of recovery of a loss African cultural identity.  And as it is related to my faith and particularly my Christian faith, my cultural/racial identity is inextricably wrapped together with my faithful commitment to God and the life example of Jesus.  For me there is no disconnection, culture and faith, faith and culture with who I know myself to be and becoming.

So my prayer for you is that you are so moved to engage in some conscious way to the project of recovery.  No matter the process, no matter the set of rituals and concepts, the project is one of deep significance and deep meaning.

Happy Kwanzaa!

Bishop JS

 

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