In 1966, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, Dr. Maulana Karenga, created Kwanzaa. He searched for ways to bring African-Americans together as a community, After the Watts riots in Los Angeles. He founded US, a cultural organization, and started to research African-Americans “first fruit” (harvest) celebrations. Karenga combined aspects of several different harvest celebrations, such as those of the Ashanti and those of the Zulu, to form the basis of Kwanzaa.
Kwanzaa comes from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which in Swahili means “first fruits”. Families celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, A child from the family lights one of the candles on the candleholder (known as Kinara), then the family will discuss one of the seven principles and what they mean. The seven principles are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing community among African-Americans. There are also has seven basic symbols in Kwanzaa which represent values and concepts reflective of African culture. Karamu is an African feast held on December 31.
Omiyale Jubé, came from Harlem 40 years ago she grew up celebrating Kwanzaa and she wanted to bring the African culture to Las Vegas .She explained it to the Circles Magazine crew to make simpler to understand :
The colors of Kwanzaa are red, black and green and each of these colors represent specific parts of the Kwanzaa celebration. Kwanzaa begins on December 26th and is 7 days long ending on January 1st. Traditionally a central place in the home is chosen and a table is set up and covered with an African cloth known as the mkeka (mat) and all the other symbols are placed on the mkeka. We start with the Kinara (candle holder), then the seven candles known as the Mishumaa Saba are placed into the kinara. The seven candles include one black candle representing unity of the people and is called Umoja and is placed in the center of the kinara. To three red candles are placed to the left of the black candle and they represent Kujichajulia (self-determination), Ujamaa (cooperative economics) and Kuumba (creativity). Then to the right of the Umoja are three green candles representing Ujima (collective work and responsibility), NIa (purpose) and Imani (faith). The black candle is lit first on the first day of the celebration. And the remaining candles are lit afterwards from left to right on the following days. This procedure is to indicate that the people come first, then the struggle and then the hope that comes from the struggle.
And then the mazao (crops), and ears of corn are also placed on the mkeka. At least two ears of corn are placed down on the mat regardless of whether there are children in the immediate family or not for the children of the community belong to all of us and every adult in African tradition is considered an immediate or social parent. Next the kikombe cha umoja (the Unity cup) is then placed on the mkeka (mat). It is used to pour tambiko (libation) to the ancestors in remembrance and honor of those who paved the path down which we walk and who taught us the good, the Tamshi and the beautiful in life. Then African art objects and books on the life and culture of African people are also placed on or next to the mat to symbolize our commitment to heritage and learning.