What do the 7 principles of Kwanzaa mean?
Speaker 1: (00:00)
QA is a seven day celebration of black culture that begins on December 26th and ends on January 1st during the celebration, seven principles are observed and on this fifth day of QA purpose is the theme here to talk about. The holiday is Starla Lewis, a professor of black studies at Mesa college and SDSU professor Lewis. Welcome.
Speaker 2: (00:22)
Thank you. Great to be here.
Speaker 1: (00:24)
So first, how is Kwana celebrated?
Speaker 2: (00:27)
Well, you know, most people don't realize it, but it's actually celebrated all over the world and there's a beautiful documentary called black candle that shows you Kwana happening throughout the world. Um, and it's celebrated during the, uh, the 26th through the 31st of what we, uh, officially call a Christmas holiday, but the reality is it's after Christmas, it has nothing to do with Christmas. It's not a substitute for Christmas. So people who celebrate Christmas or any other holidays can also celebrate because it is a cultural celebration.
Speaker 1: (01:04)
You mentioned the documentary called black candle. What's the significance of the black candle during QA.
Speaker 2: (01:11)
The black candle is the first candle that is lit on the first day of QA. And then it's lit every day after. And it represents the people
Speaker 1: (01:20)
And today's principle is purpose. Can you talk a bit about, uh, about that and how it's observed during the holiday?
Speaker 2: (01:28)
The principles are observed throughout the year and on that day, people come together and talk about how they've lived that principle throughout the entire year and purpose, you know, is like destiny. It's like we're born into the world with a purpose. We're giving gifts, we're giving talents. And when we tap into those and manifest those, then we begin to, uh, fulfill our purpose for me. So
Speaker 1: (01:53)
Really this is a time of, of self-reflection, um, over the entire year, what are the other principles?
Speaker 2: (02:00)
U N I T Y unity, which is Moja self-determination, which is my favorite CJI Chale because it's about naming ourselves and defining ourselves and speaking for ourselves. And my whole thing is self love. So I love CJI Chale, uh, collective work and responsibility, which is UJA, uh, that we've come together, worked together, and we're all responsible for each other cooperative economics, which is Ujima and Ujima is sharing wealth. It's a concept of believing that we're here to not only, um, build for ourselves, but build for our future generat, those that we may never even meet. And then of course, Mia, which is purpose, and then Kaumba, which is creativity, creativity, my great, great, great aunt. Kate used to always say, you come from a people who learned how to make a way outta no way. And I believe that's our creativity. And then the last principle is Imani. Faith. African people are very spiritual people. So we believe in things that are not yet seen. And I do believe that that's one of the reasons we survived enslavement because even without any evidence that we were gonna be free, we knew that spirits were free.
Speaker 1: (03:20)
Hmm. And collectively, why are these principles so important to the black community?
Speaker 2: (03:25)
Well, one is because they, uh, encompass many different cultures on the continent of Africa, uh, Myana Koranga brought the, the principles and values together and kind of blended them. They on the different cultures. So all of these principles can be found in every African society or culture.
Speaker 1: (03:47)
And, you know, the pandemic has changed so many communities. Do you think the pandemic really highlights the need for these principles?
Speaker 2: (03:54)
Well, I think the pandemic highlights the needs for everything, but especi, uh, collective work and responsibility and cooperative economics. We're in a time where if we're not sharing, uh, many people are suffering. And then also the whole concept of Imani, faith, you know, faith and fear can't exist in the same place at the same time. So either we're gonna have faith that we're gonna get through this, or we're gonna struggle in our fears of what might happen that may never happen.
Speaker 1: (04:25)
Are there organizations or areas, uh, of San Diego where you see these, the seven principles working?
Speaker 2: (04:32)
Uh, actually I see them working wherever they're being taught, but I know that every year in B park at the world beat center, the community comes together and celebrates these principles. And the it's usually packed. And the beauty of Chetham, who is the director of the world beat center is that she also owned the number one vegetarian restaurant in San Diego for many years called the profit. So she literally feeds the community for throughout the QA celebration with, uh, and the, and the lock bounds and the, all the restrictions. Uh, they, they only did two in person, uh, Kwana celebrations, but you can see Kwanza virtually, uh, by going to the world center and looking at their website
Speaker 1: (05:19)
And how was Kwanza?
Speaker 2: (05:22)
Well, it was started by a student at, uh, UCLA, Dr. Milana Koranga who later became a professor at San Diego state university and is now a professor at long beach state. And he said that black people celebrated everybody's holidays, but their own. And the only holiday we celebrated before QA was when they told us two years later that we were freed in Texas. And that's important, but that doesn't define the, the vastness of who we are.
Speaker 1: (05:53)
And do you think that there are are ways to really engage the community to carry the principles of Kwana? Uh, beyond December 26th through January 1st, but 365 days a year?
Speaker 2: (06:06)
Oh, absolutely. I was in the barbershop getting my haircut and they asked me, how is it that we can get gang members to get outta gangs? And I said, oh, that's easy. And they looked at me like, what? And I said, all you have to do is teach 'em who they really are because when people know who they really are, they're not a threat or danger to anybody else when we love ourselves and accept ourselves, and then we can see ourselves and others, then we want for others, what we want for ourselves.
Speaker 1: (06:33)
That's interesting. Let's touch on that a little bit. What's been the challenge to us getting to know ourselves.
Speaker 2: (06:41)
It's called miseducation. We're finally in a place where we're taught, getting ready to talk about ethnic studies, to represent the, the contributions and, and perspectives of all the people who make up America, because America's very diverse. And yet historic, we only learn about the history of our European brothers and sisters. We can quote them, but we often know nothing about ourselves. And my favorite example is when I desegregated a school in Altadena, I was nine. And the teacher asked us to talk about where we came from. And I was sitting there trying to figure out where Negro land was, cuz I had never heard about that's coming from Africa.
Speaker 1: (07:19)
And, and there's a lot of power in knowing where you come from, who you are.
Speaker 2: (07:24)
Absolutely knowledge is power. You can't be yourself. If you don't know yourself,
Speaker 1: (07:29)
I've been speaking with star Lewis, a professor of black studies at Mesa college and SDSU professor Lewis. Thank you so much for joining us.
Speaker 2: (07:39)
Thank you for having me and have a wonderful Kwanza.
Speaker 1: (07:42)
You too happy Kwanza.
Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration of Black culture that begins on Dec. 26 and ends on Jan. 1st. During the celebration seven principles to uplift the Black community are observed.
Starla Lewis, a professor of Black Studies at Mesa College and SDSU, joined Midday Edition to talk about the principles of Kwanzaa and SDSU's connection to the founding of the holiday.