Reflect on the past, celebrate survival, and reenergize for the work ahead.
It’s been a long, difficult year, but we’re finally approaching the holiday season. It’s usually a time for celebration, reflection, gratitude, gift giving, and merriment.
It’s going to look and feel different for most people this year.
Given the trauma Black people experienced in 2020, it’s particularly important to have time to connect with loved ones and honor shared heritage.
Kwanzaa is one way to reflect on the past, celebrate progress and survival, and reenergize for the work ahead.
Kwanzaa is an African American celebration that runs from December 26 to January 1. It was introduced by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 in response to the 1965 Watts Rebellion following the arrest of African American man Marquette Frye in Los Angeles, California.
There are seven principles of Kwanzaa, with each one recognized on a specific day of the celebration.
This year, you can connect virtually with other Black people in your community. You can set time aside to consider the principle of each day and how it relates to your life, as well as make plans to check in daily and share your reflections and commitments with loved ones.
Below are the dates of Kwanzaa, their principles in English and Swahili, and the inspired words of Black leaders.
December 26: Unity (Umoja)
Unity has been more than a theme for most of the year. It’s been a practice.
Black people in the United States and all over the world have stood together, speaking out against the systemic, racist violence they experience every day.
On December 26, you can be in unity with your people, whether they’re family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or people in your giving circle.
Look for opportunities to connect with others, honoring the relationships between different communities and the need to come together in solidarity for a shared vision.
December 27: Self-determination (Kujichagulia)
Quiet reflection can bring revelation, insight, and inspiration.
Generations of Black people before you worked to ensure their children would be free. On this second day of Kwanzaa, you can honor their work and take advantage of your freedom.
Be in conversation with yourself. Recognize what control you do have over your outcomes. Let your desire be your guide.
December 28: Collective work and responsibility (Ujima)
By this third day of Kwanzaa, you’ve reflected on community with others and tuned in to your needs.
You can now bring together the elements of unity and self-determination to participate in collective work and responsibility.
What can you do with others to have a stronger impact? Can you put aside ego in favor of doing something with and for others?
Consider your community and what you can do to meet a need, whether it’s visiting people who are alone or helping a grassroots organization deliver meals. You can remember and honor the responsibility we all have for each other.
December 29: Cooperative economics (Ujamaa)
There are thousands of ways to collaborate and create opportunities together.
You may not be able to do exactly what you want on your own, but your vision may be aligned with that of another person.
December 30: Purpose (Nia)
As the year draws to a close, everyone is trying to figure out what comes next.
The destination has to be clear before you can determine how you’ll get there. Maybe you’re committed to creating a place for yourself where you’re free from the stressors of the past.
Use your imagination and let it guide you into the next day of Kwanzaa.
December 31: Creativity (Kuumba)
Drumming, dance, poetry, and song have long been part of a community practice for sending messages, expressing emotions, solving problems, and creating joy.
Creativity is innate. It’s natural, and it needs to be nurtured and have space to grow.
On December 31, let your creativity take whatever form it wants. Allow it to show up in your movements, your cooking, your speech, and the way you find rest.
Know that while it comes from you, it moves others too.
January 1: Faith (Imani)
Remember what our ancestors accomplished and the circumstances under which they prevailed.
How much more can you do, and how much further can you go, with the principles you’ve practiced throughout the week?
Follow the light left for you, and be the light for others to follow.
Kwanzaa is a journey. This celebration gives you the opportunity to sit in deep reflection about who you are, what you desire, how you contribute to your community, and where you are going.
It’s the perfect way to close any year, but especially this tumultuous one. Together, we can enter a new year with vision and resolve.
Alicia A. Wallace is a queer Black feminist, women’s human rights defender, and writer. She is passionate about social justice and community building. She enjoys cooking, baking, gardening, traveling, and talking to everyone and no one at the same time on Twitter.