Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan African Holiday founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, with the intent to bring the black community together. Observed over a period of seven days from December 26th to January 1st, this celebration of family, community and culture is now practiced by over 18 million people worldwide. A non-religious holiday meant to bring all of the African diaspora together, the celebration was designed to strengthen community, reaffirm common identity, purpose and direction.
The word Kwanzaa is drawn from the Swahili phrase “Matunda Ya Kwanza”, which means first fruits. Swahili is a trade language used to facilitate communication between different language groups, this became a popular language in the Pan-African movement who sought to bring together Africans from all back grounds. Kwanzaa introduces and reinforces the Nguzo Saba (the Seven Principles.) The seven basic values of African culture that contribute to building and reinforcing family, community and culture. The Nguzo Saba both reinforce and enhance the building blocks of community. Each day of Kwanzaa is focused on the reflection and practice of one of these principles.
The Hamilton Hill Arts Center pioneered the celebration of Kwanzaa in the Capital Region and has been celebrating the holiday for 46 years. We are now part of the Kwanzaa coalition which was created in 2013, as a group of community organizations committed to working together to plan the annual Kwanzaa Celebration in the Capital Region that would encompass the seven days of Kwanzaa. The holiday is kicked off in a grand collaborative event celebrated in the New York state Museum in Albany NY, each of the following days are celebrated by a different organization in the Coalition.