Nguzo Saba The 7 Principles of Blackness

Kwanzaa may be fading into obscurity, but the Lansing State Journal apparently didn’t get the memo: African-American celebration brings community together

Lansing resident Lucy Stevenson was introduced to Kwanzaa when she joined St. Stephen’s Community Church five years ago.

Since then, she’s learned about the holiday’s principles of responsibility and unity.

Stevenson said she considers Kwanzaa’s message a lifestyle.

“It’s about loving one another,” she said. “Love covers it all.”

…Kwanzaa is a seven-day observance that begins the day after Christmas.

…Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Ron Karenga, an African-American scholar.

That African-American scholar, aka Ron Everett and Maulana Karenga, served 4 years in California State Prison for felony sexual assault and false imprisonment. While leader of the racist “United Slaves” organization he and his friends assaulted and tortured Deborah Jones and Gail Davis for two days. The Los Angeles Times reported that, “Deborah Jones, who once was given the title of an African queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis’ mouth and placed against Miss Davis’ face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vice. Karenga, head of US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said”.

Not precisely what you’d expect from a moralist exhorting blacks to “leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it”. Some people can look past this, however,

“We stress the seven principles of Kwanzaa. It’s not just an event, but a way of life,” said Renee Boyd of Lansing. “Things are definitely improving.”

When Kalenga founded Kwanzaa he called these principles “The 7 Principles of Blackness.” Here’s the complete list:

  1. Umoja (Unity): “to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race”
  2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): “to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves”
  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): “to build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together”
  4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): “to build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together”
  5. Nia (Purpose): “to make our collective vocation the building and development of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness”
  6. Kuumba (Creativity): “to do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it”
  7. Imani (Faith): “to believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle”

Here’s how principle number 4 is perceived in Lansing:

Bennie Boyd said one of Kwanzaa’s principles, cooperative economics, is a vital cog for the black community.

“If black people don’t support black businesses, there won’t be any,” he said.

In fact, Ujamaa is what Julius Nyerere, the socialist leader of Tanzania, called his disastrous policy of putting tens of thousands of Tanzanians on collective farms. By following that principle there wouldn’t be any black owned businesses to support, they’d all belong to the government.

So, celebrate any set of principles you want, but let’s not pretend Karenga’s “7 Principles of Blackness” are about loving one another. Nor as

Karenga explained in his 1977 Kwanzaa: Origin, Concepts, Practice, ‘Kwanzaa is not an imitation, but an alternative, in fact, an oppositional alternative to the spookism, mysticism and non-earth based practices which plague us as a people and encourage our withdrawal from social life rather than our bold confrontation with it.’

…appropriate for celebration in a Christian church.

14 thoughts on “Nguzo Saba The 7 Principles of Blackness”

  1. Thanks for the background information. I still think that there is much to be said for the celebrating or teaching of the Nguzo(Nguzu)Saba. As a Christian, I do not care for the celebration of Kwanzaa during the 12 days of Christmas. I believe that even if it requires some tweaking, we as people of the African diaspora, can benefit from an emphasis on these principles. These principles can also be shown to be scripturally sound in their application et al without outlandish reinterpretation. I therefore recommend two things 1.) The first seven days of February be utilized for focus on the Nguzo Saba and 2.) That the principles be used as a tool to uplift our and draw them to faith in Jesus the Christ!

  2. As did the Founders, I think people should be allowed to hold whatever religious beliefs they want. Including none.What bothers me is that Kwaanza, as constituted, celebrates the same socialist tropes as we see in communist totalitarian regimes, and was developed as an anti-Christian ideal to promote racism. This core principle is going to be hard to reconcile with scripture even if the individual points can be isolated and read as uplifting.If it can be seized away from that legacy, more power to it. Your ideas are a start, but since Kwaanza was designed to be celebrated at Christmas as a rejection of Christ, reforming it in the way you suggest will not be easy. I wish you luck.Thanks for stopping by.

  3. it is a secular celebration. Not a rejection of Christ. Not a religious celebration at all. Please do more historical fact checking, before bashing. Anything can be demonized. Celebrating is a choice. Where one celebrates is a choice. Choose to celebrate or choose not to celebrate…”tweak it”…I think not….Move it, that is your choice also, but not what the founder had in mind. “tweak it and call it something else…it is no longer Kwanzaa.

  4. Kwanzaa is made up but pretends to have an ancient African connection. It is explicitly racial and implicitly socialist. It is “an oppositional alternative to the spookism, mysticism and non-earth based practices,” by which the founder means Christianity. He didn't decide to celebrate around Ramadan or Yom Kippur.If you want to celebrate it, do so. Just don't pretend it has any more significance than Festivus.

  5. For those of non African American Decent, I would expect you to not understand our culture. It is easy for someone to bash in on the African American when the white society does not want us to have anything of our own. In order for African Americans to understand what happen to us, we must first realize and understand where our ancestors were from. After all, our forefathers/family members were brought to this country in deplorable ways and to add insult, we didnot want to come to this country. We were forced to live in filth and were stripped of any dignity and our families were torn apart. Kawanzaa tells us about our ancestors and how to live each day as all of us should. So for those of you who are stuck in your own white world…Keep your mouths shut!!

  6. I suppose it draws support from the black citizenry, …If they need it for whatever reason, what's the harm?? I/we draw support from whatever institution we choose. That's why there are so many cults, religions clubs associations etc. It's inappropriate though, that Mr Karenga should have chosen the day after Christmas. Perhaps the week after July 4th or even after New Years would have been more apropos. Just a thought.

  7. No doubt what this is all about, a national socialist holiday for blacks in a predominantly white country. Then they tell the whites to “shut up” as one commenter did. Well, pal, the whites are not going to shut up just because you said so. If the whites did not protect you here you would be in deep trouble. I suggest you cease biting the hand that feeds you because it will eventually slap you down.

  8. So, what the commentor above me is implying is that, we, as a community or race, need to rely on the white community to survive? You are suggesting that the white community is superior, that they “feed” us, and in todays society that is just wrong, no matter who you are. Nobody is above another just because of the circumstances of their birth.