Created to give African Americans a holiday that promotes culture and inspires greatness in the family and community, Kwanzaa emerged in 1966 when first introduced by scholar and distinguished author, Dr. Maulana Karenga. Out of a time where African Americans were fighting to exercise even their basic rights to vote and make a living, Dr. Karenga sought to implement a tradition that would bring together first African Americans, and then all members of the African Diaspora globally.

A week-long celebration that is held from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 every year, some point to the unfamiliar language of Kwanzaa as a reason many African Americans simply opt out of celebrating, something local artist, Ama Chandra, is attempting to change.

“We need music that invokes a connection to our holiday,” says Chandra, whose infectious tune, A Song For Kwanzaa (Harambe), will be given away free of charge for the 2011 Kwanzaa season. Unlike Christmas, families who observe the holiday make gifts instead of pouring hard earned money into the spending craze a commercialized Christmas brings every year.

“Americans have grown away from that tradition of coming together and being a family,” said MoRece Carrol producer of Harambe, and president of Stinkiface Music.

“Family doesn’t have the emphasis it used to have and with African American homes and single family homes being broken, we see what our crisis is now,”said Carrol.

“Kwanzaa is just another opportunity to make that change for the better.” Citing unity as his favorite principle, Carrol and Chanda become modern day griots in every sense of the word as they relay the importance and meaning of Kwanzaa through song.

Evolving from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first-fruits” in Swahili, Kwanzaa is practiced to instill key values and morals in the community and provide a firm foundation for a well balanced human. For each of the seven days of the celebration, a certain aspect of the Nguzo Saba, or the Seven Principles, is recognized by the lighting of a candle in a special ceremony.

The principles, Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), Imani (Faith), not only improve self-esteem, but create a bond with the African American culture. The colors of Kwanzaa, black, red, and green, symbolize the people, the blood shed in the struggle for freedom, and fertility and bright future of Africa respectively.

While Kwanzaa is neither a religious holiday nor a replacement for Christmas, Chandra and Carrol both hope that in raising awareness about what the holiday is really about, more African Americans will take this time to reconnect with their heritage.

To access your free download of A Song For Kwanzaa (Harambe) visit stinkifacemusic.com/kwanzaa.cfm

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer