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Pillars of Kwanzaa – The Springboard for Emancipation of Africans


Friday, May 4, 2007
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Aricans have been urged to come out of their ghetto mentality and embrace Nguzo Saba (the Seven Pillars of Kwanzaa) as a springboard to attain their full potential as the divinely chosen people to advance humanity to another level.


Delivering a keynote address at a Swahili Open Day at the Sabathani Community Center in Minneapolis on Saturday April 21, the creator of Kwanzaa, Dr Maulana Karenga said Nguzo 7 will bring about the greatness of the black people. He told an attentive audience that Africans were the first people to teach the world what is good and bad.


Giving a presentation on “Pan-Africanism and Nguzo Saba: Principles and Practices of Togetherness” he said the mission of Africans in a global context is “to bring good into the world”. He said we should reaffirm our roots and culture, do justice to all and “walk in the way of righteousness.”


Karenga called on Africans to reaffirm their bonds as one people in a Pan-African perspective and celebrate the “sacred names and practices of our great ancestors” through the “[African] family and community culture.”


Speaking about the greatness of the African in a global context, he said: “we should reject the selfish cultures of other people as we believe in togetherness.” Emphatically adding that “[Africans] should write our own history so that we are not misrepresented by others.”


Karenga paid tribute to past African leaders such as Marcus Garvey, Du-Bois, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Karenga asserted that the moral meaning of African lives is to excel in the best disciplines of human knowledge and create a world in which “everybody deserves a life of dignity and decency.”


He decried the mainstream media as incompetent to be a teacher to the African community as they have always depicted Africans as a pathetic people with flies on their faces, dying of hunger and curable diseases. The media is focused on the negativity, he observed adding: “If I wanted I can take pictures of 30 million homeless and hungry people in America today. Correct me if I am wrong!” The crowd echoed in unison: “true, true.”


He hailed the Seven Pillars of Kwanzaa as a practical philosophy that has “taken hold in the lives of African Americans and has inspired them to name their children, their businesses and raise their kids accordingly with positive African values.”


The Seven Pillars which are articulated in Swahili are: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (corporate economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).

An initiative of the University of Minnesota, the Swahili Open Day’s goal was to serve as a way to get out of the academic ivory tower and connect as well as rub shoulders with the community in their neighborhood.

University students of Swahili under the guidance of their instructor, Angaluki Muaka, entertained their audience with Swahili songs, drum beats and were clad in Swahili traditional dress of khanga and kitenge.


The audience enjoyed a Swahili lesson from students Chelsie Frank and Fathiya Jeylani. Mkate Katie Ernst who has had a four months visit to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and has fond memories of the East African countries gave a stunning performance playing African drums.


On her experience in East Africa, Ernest said, “I love the good food, great people and excellent relationships with people. I still want to go back there as I really enjoyed doing the cooking in the kitchen with the mamas.”


Dr. Karenga has PhDs in Political Science and Social Ethics from American Universities and an honorary doctorate degree from Durban, South Africa. He is currently a professor in the Department of Black Studies at the California State University, Long Beach. He has authored several scholarly articles and books. His best known book is titled “Kwanzaa – A Celebration of Families, Communities and Culture”. Others are Usia (Sacred Wisdom), Kawaida – A Communication of African Philosophy and Introduction to Black Studies. Karenga has been active with intellectual thought and political struggles of black people including Black Power, Black Arts, Black Studies, Afrocentricity and the Million Person Marches.


The Swahili Open Day was the initiative of the Department of African American and African Studies in collaboration with the Institute of Global Studies. It was co-sponsored by Mshale Newspaper, an African community monthly published in Minnesota.


Swahili, the most widely spoken language in Africa is one of the three African languages taught at the University of Minnesota. The other two are Arabic and Hausa.


Explained Dr Earl Scott, Professor and chair of the African American and African Studies: “it is our way of connecting with Africa and people in the Diaspora.”


Bravo (hongera) Swahili Open Day!

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About Swallehe Msuya

Swallehe Msuya was a senior staff writer at Mshale with extensive media experience in his native Tanzania. He was a general assignments writer. Investigative stories that Mshale undertook were normally his responsibility. Swallehe passed away in Sept. 2009 at the age of 61. Mshale will forever miss his tenacity and wisdom.

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