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Blackonomics: The Real Reason We Should Celebrate Kwanzaa This Year

James Clingman says that Kwanzaa brings a cultural message, which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human
James Clingman says that Kwanzaa brings a cultural message, which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense.

For 50 years, Black people in the United States have celebrated the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Established by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday celebrated by millions throughout the world African community. Kwanzaa brings a cultural message, which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. Our obvious support and celebration of this occasion suggests our commitment, not only to the principles of the Nguzo Saba, but also to their fruition. Thus, we ask you: What Kwanzaa success will you celebrate this year? What have you done during the year that qualifies as a celebratory event during Kwanzaa?

Have you achieved Umoja (Unity) among Black folks in your locale? Are you unified to the point that you love one another more and support one another more? Do you have proof that you have unified around some pertinent issue or cause? If so, then let the celebration begin. If not, let the lamentation begin.

How about Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)? What have you done in your city to demonstrate your commitment to determining the future of your children? Are others still controlling your destiny? Or have you taken it upon yourself to build and support your own institutions, open and grow new business, and create your own jobs?

Can you celebrate an accomplishment during 2016 vis-à-vis collective work and responsibility toward one another? Are you celebrating Ujima this year, or are you lamenting about what we have not done? If you have worked collectively on community projects such as neighborhood clean-up, elderly assistance, or tutoring, then your Kwanzaa celebration is in order.

Now, here’s my favorite: Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics). Have you done anything cooperatively this year to increase the economic viability and stability of your community? Have you pooled any of your money to finance a project or to form an investment group to assist micro businesses? Have you purchased Black manufactured products on a consistent basis?

What have you done to build and develop your community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness? In other words, what is your Nia (Purpose) and have you actualized that purpose? If you have, then you definitely have something to celebrate.

Have you created anything lately? What has been the level of your Kuumba (Creativity) this past year? Is there anything, not necessarily something material, that you created to benefit your community? Maybe, it was a new financial institution, a volunteer food service program for those in need, or maybe it was a new resolve and commitment to do better than you did the previous year. Creativity covers a multitude of endeavors.

Finally, how much Imani (Faith), do you have in the things you are celebrating? How much faith do you have in yourself? How much faith do you have in your brothers and sisters? How much faith do you have in the Creator’s ability to carry you through in times of struggle? Are you one of “little faith,” or is your faith sufficient to support you in your quest to fulfill the other six principles of Kwanzaa?

Aren’t you tired of mere spoken words? Aren’t you just a little weary of empty rhetoric, events based on words followed by little or no subsequent action? Wouldn’t you like to see us, after fifty years of celebrating Kwanzaa, be able to point to something we built and sustained because of our celebration of values we hold so dear?

On December 26th of every year, after fifty years of celebrating, we should be able to look back and revel in the things we have accomplished through our celebration of Kwanzaa. What will you see when you look back this year? If nothing is there except a mere celebration of principles rather than progress, then you have some work to do. Use this year’s Kwanzaa to act upon the seven principles so that this time next year you will have some tangible accomplishment to celebrate.

Again, my favorite principle is Ujamaa, so I’d like to offer something you can do to celebrate it. Go to and purchase a few bags of Sweet Unity Coffee for yourself and for Kwanzaa gifts for a few friends. Then celebrate by toasting “sweet unity” among our people.

The founder of Kwanzaa, Maulana Karenga, did more than just come up with some nice words and principles for us to recognize and follow during this season. He has shared many words with us on how we must conduct ourselves at all times—not just during Kwanzaa. One thing he warned against was Black folks getting stuck in a place where most of what we do is lament “litanies of lost battles.” Kwanzaa must be a true celebration of production and progress, not just another lamentation of having lost.

James Clingman is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. His latest book, Black Dollars Matter! Teach your dollars how to make more sense, is available on his website,