In His Own Words: An Interview with Maulana Karenga

Beliefnet talks to the founder of the holiday, Dr. Maulana Karenga, about its origins, its aim and its future.

 

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Beliefnet: Is it possible for Kwanzaa to evolve into a more spiritual holiday than a cultural one? As of late, there is more of an interest in religion and spirituality among people in the United States. In some circles, it is thought that Kwanzaa is, therefore, becoming more of a spiritual holiday. Should Kwanzaa, as an African-American holiday change to reflect this development?

Maulana Karenga: Kwanzaa must and will remain essentially a cultural holiday which celebrates family, community and culture, stresses the producing, harvesting and sharing good in the world and invites us to meditate seriously on the wonder, good and awesome responsibility of being African in the world.

Beliefnet: What are some things that Kwanzaa observers can do to avoid commercialization and strive towards Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)?

Maulana Karenga: See FAQs on the web site, www.OfficialKwanzaaWebsite.org or pp. 119-121 in my book, Kwanzaa, A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture, Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press.

Beliefnet: The nature and structure of the family has changed quite a bit since Kwanzaa was first created. Many young African-American adults of this day and age do not have the cultural background and foundation of the Civil Rights Era. Because of this, many don't necessarily have the impetus to celebrate with their families. How can parents and elders remedy this and effectively encourage their children to observe Kwanzaa?

Maulana Karenga: Kwanzaa is celebrated by over 28 million people throughout the world African community on every continent in the world. I am very pleased with how many people, parents and children have embraced it as an essential cultural and value orientation which expands and enriches their lives. Of all the good which came out of the Black Freedom Movement, both its Civil Rights and Black Power phases, Kwanzaa stands as a unique heritage and cultural institution. It is this institution as a definitive and enduring carrier of culture which has kept the 60's struggles and achievements as a living tradition. But it also brings forth the whole of African history and culture as a valuable, ancient and enduring model of human excellence and achievement and uses this culture as a rich resource for addressing modern moral and social issues. It is in celebrating Kwanzaa and practicing its Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles, that our families and community are reaffirmed and reinforced and our lives enriched and expanded.

Continued on page 4: I give honor to African people who as a beautiful act of self-determination... »

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