The Message and Meaning of Kwanzaa: Bringing Good Into the World

Read founder's message for the year 2000.

The central message and meaning of Kwanzaa is rooted in its raising up and bringing forth the ancient African model and practice of producing, harvesting and sharing good in the world. Kwanzaa stresses the importance of our sowing the seeds of goodness everywhere, of cultivating them with care and loving kindness, of harvesting the products of our efforts with joy and of sharing the good of it all throughout the community and the world. Thus, of all the rich and expansive ways we can express the meaning and message of Kwanzaa, none is more important than seeing it and embracing it as a season and celebration of bringing good into the world.

And key to this commitment to bringing good into the world is practicing the Nguzo Saba, The Seven Principles: Umoja (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity); and Imani (Faith). Although the Nguzo Saba are to be practiced throughout the year, special stress is placed on the teaching and practicing of them during Kwanzaa. Lessons are taught to explain them; songs are sung to emphasize the benefit and promise of practicing them; dances are performed to demonstrate them; narratives are told to illustrate them and daily activities are conducted with an increased concern to place them at the center of our thought and practice.

Certainly, one of the most significant ways to raise up and reaffirm the Nguzo Saba is through the Kwanzaa candle lighting ceremony. This ceremony called "Lifting Up the Light that Lasts" reflects the Sebaic teaching found in the Husia of ancient Egypt that says we, as a people, are "given that which endures in the midst of that which is overthrown" and that this enduring legacy is our spiritual and ethical values. And so at Kwanzaa we lift up these lasting values which light the path to bringing good into the world.

In lifting up the light of the principles, we think deeply about them, discuss them and recommit ourselves to them in an ongoing effort to make them truly a vital part of our daily lives. As we light each day one of the seven candles which represent the Seven Principles, we make a wish for the good each principle, when practiced, will bring into the world. And each wish unavoidably carries with it a commitment to work to bring it into being.

This year as we light the candle for Umoja (Unity) let us wish and commit ourselves to work for a continued and heightened unity of African people in their families and communities throughout the world as they continue to forge their future in the historic struggle to expand the realm of freedom and increase shared good in the world. And let us wish and work for an increased unity for common good among the peoples of the world based on mutual respect for each person, people and culture; liberation for the oppressed, justice for the wronged, power for the people and a just peace at every site of conflict and war in the world.

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