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Kwanzaa Traditions: Heritage, Unity, and Collective Strength in the Black Community

Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration from December 26th to January 1st, primarily celebrated by Black Americans in the United States. It’s not a religious holiday, but more of a cultural one that honors Black heritage, family, and community. This holiday offers families an opportunity to come together, celebrate, and create meaningful traditions. Because this isn’t a religious holiday and more of a cultural celebration, people of all faiths can participate in an effort to bring unity and oneness to our communities and homes.

Although much was lost in the transatlantic slave trade, Kwanzaa stands as a testament to the Black community’s enduring spirit and its ongoing efforts to reclaim and reimagine its heritage through meaningful traditions. 

Kwanzaa was established in 1966 by Maulana Karenga. He had a desire to provide a cultural celebration for the Black community that emphasized unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Rooted in the harvest festivals of Africa, Kwanzaa draws inspiration from various African traditions, creating a unique and empowering cultural celebration.

“Whether it’s a business I own or mentoring a new business owner,  its principles are always at the forefront of my mind. Kwanzaa to me is a beacon of hope in our community and guide to more unity and more peace”~Khadijah Phillips, Owner of Autism Mom Club


The Principles of Kwanzaa:

Each day of Kwanzaa focuses on one of its seven principles, known as the Nguzo Saba, which serve as a guide for fostering unity and collective strength within the Black community.

Umoja (Unity) – December 26: This principle emphasizes the importance of unity within the family, community, and nation. Families come together, reinforcing the collective strength that emanates from a united community.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) – December 27: Encouraging individuals to define and speak for themselves, Kujichagulia calls for self-determination and the assertion of one’s identity within the community.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) – December 28: Kwanzaa’s third day underscores the idea that collective work and shared responsibility are essential for building and maintaining a strong community.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) – December 29: Focused on cooperative economics, this principle highlights the significance of supporting Black-owned businesses, fostering economic independence, and building a thriving community.

Nia (Purpose) – December 30: Nia encourages individuals to identify and work towards common goals, emphasizing the importance of purpose in guiding the community towards prosperity.

Kuumba (Creativity) – December 31: On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, creativity is celebrated as a driving force for positive change within the community.

Imani (Faith) – January 1: Kwanzaa concludes with Imani, promoting faith in the community, its leaders, and the righteousness of the struggle for a better future.


In a New York Times article, families across the diaspora were interviewed about their Kwanzaa traditions. One family in Brooklyn, New York, sisters Kerry Coddett and Krystal Stark, have transformed Kwanzaa into a celebration of cooperative economics with their annual Kwanzaa Crawl. This day dedicated to supporting Black-owned businesses gained momentum over the years by highlighting the principles of Kwanzaa. Due to Covid restrictions, the traditional bar crawl had to be put on hold but the sisters celebrated at home, focusing on the importance of never losing their family’s tradition of food and love. Through vegan pancakes, shrimp, and mushroom lasagna, and shared intentions, Kerry and Krystal demonstrate the power of Kwanzaa in preserving family traditions and a sense of unity.

Other families celebrate Kwanzaa with elders sharing stories, teaching skills, and offering guidance. These interactions expose children to positive role models, inspiring them to make positive choices.  Emphasizing values like resilience, perseverance, creativity, and family. These values guide children’s choices and interactions, promoting positive behaviors and reducing the likelihood of resorting to violence. Of course, fostering a sense of identity is just one piece of the puzzle in reducing violence, but it’s a start.

I believe that strong cultural traditions can be a powerful tool in this journey. By celebrating their heritage, connecting with their community, and internalizing positive values, Black children can develop the self-awareness, empathy, and resilience needed to build a brighter future for themselves and their communities.

Kwanzaa, with its focus on collective responsibility, economic empowerment, and purposeful living, shows how traditions contribute to the strength and resilience of the community. By living out these principles, families not only celebrate a cultural holiday but also contribute to the ongoing narrative of unity, purpose, and pride within the Black community.

Despite the controversy surrounding its founder, the enduring principles of Kwanzaa provide a roadmap for unity, self-determination, and collective strength. As families continue to create their own traditions and celebrate the Nguzo Saba, they contribute a sense of purpose, resilience, and cultural richness in our communities. Through the celebration of Kwanzaa, the Black community continues to nurture its heritage and build a future grounded in unity and collective prosperity.



Wikipedia article on Maulana Karenga:

Fact Check: Was the Founder of Kwanzaa Convicted of Kidnapping and Torture?

Op-Ed: The dark side of Kwanzaa’s founder can’t extinguish the holiday’s beacon

The New York Times articles by Nicole Taylor, Photographs by Nydia Blas, Celeste Noche, Brian Palmer, and Timothy Smith (Dec. 21, 2020).



Article Written by: Khadijah Phillips| Khadijah Phillips is a highly driven woman who was born to break barriers. She proves that when powered by purpose, women are unstoppable. She’s built her storied life and career brick by brick, fighting fears, failures, and setbacks to have the success she’s always known was hers to claim. Today, she personifies what it means to ascend above adversity while inspiring countless others to do the same through her media company and strategic partnerships. You can follow her on Instagram @bestiesmedia and check out her website,


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