ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Christmas might be over, but for those celebrating, Kwanzaa has just begun. Kwanzaa means “first harvest” in Swahili and is more of a cultural holiday than religious; stemming from the harvest seasons in Africa.

“It is both a celebration and a ritual that reminds us of the things we consider important both culturally and within the community,” says Miki Conn of the Capital Region Kwanzaa Coalition. From December 26 to January 1, Kwanzaa, a holiday created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, is celebrated.

The holiday goes on for seven days with seven “principles” accompanying each day. Kwanzaa promotes African culture and unity, which is what the first night is all about.

“He [Maulana Karenga] wanted a festivity that did not compete with Christmas but something that would offset or connect us to where we are from, our African culture. And Kwanzaa is that. It has seven principles. This is the first day of Kwanzaa which is umoja, which means unity,” says Malik Muhammad.

Conn says although Kwanzaa is primarily celebrated by the African American and Pan African communities, it is open to everyone. “It is also a celebration that anyone can participate in. When you look at the principles of Kwanzaa, they are principles that any human being would benefit from incorporating into their lives.”

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are:

Umoja/Unity

  • Meaning to maintain unity within your family, community, and race.

Kujichagulia/Self-Determination

  • To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Ujima/Collective Work and Responsibility

  • To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.

Ujamaa (Cooperative economics)

  • To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia/Purpose

  • To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity)

  • To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith)

  • To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Malik Muhammad says the last principle, faith, is incredibly important, especially during a global pandemic. “We have to have faith that the ancestors that fought for a better day, that all of those things that they promised us, our grandparents, and the patriarchs of yesterday didn’t say it for no reason at all. There will be a future. It will get brighter at the end of all this. After the storm comes the light.” 

The Capital Region Kwanzaa Coaltion will be hosting celebrations all week long across the area. The times and dates are in the image below.