African American woman in ethnic dress lighting Kwanzaa candles. Photo courtesy of Creative Content on Demand.

By Daniel Winner | AC JosepH Media

ATLANTIC CITY — Habari gani?


The fifth principle of Kwanzaa is “Kuumba” or “Creativity.” Today, we are called “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.”

The creation of Kwanzaa itself serves as an example of Kuumba and how it’s applied to African American society. People often confuse the concepts of cultural retention and cultural construction.

Cultural retention may include the languages and behaviors that are common to any society or group of people. Kwanzaa is a prime example of innovative culture, combining elements of tradition and modernity.

Innovation is directly related to the idea of restoration and is an inherent component of Kuumba. Dr. Maulana Karenga has said:

“It is of value to note here that my creation of Kwanzaa falls within the restorative conception of creativity. For when I say I created Kwanzaa, the term ‘created’ does not imply or mean ‘made out of nothing’ … What one has, then, is rather a creative restoration in the African spirit of cultural restoration and renewal in both the ancient Egyptian and African American sense of the practice as used in the 1960’s.”

As this day takes place on New Year’s Eve, the principle is often celebrated through song, dance, and food. The feast and gathering celebrated at this time is known as “Karamu Ya Imani” or “banquet of faith.”

The first feast was introduced in 1973 at the Ridgeland club in Chicago as an educational campaign, with 200 people in attendance. Today, Chicago hosts some of the largest Karamu Ya Imani gatherings in the country.

Just as it was for our ancient ancestors, creativity is current in everyone today as well. It’s how we express ourselves, whether eating, walking, working, resting, painting, dancing or even breathing. Kuumba inspires us to gather the seeds of the past and plant them in the soil of modern civilization to foster the growth of something new.

We will light the final red candle in this New Year’s Eve recollection of overcoming struggle, knowing that our culture will continue to evolve into something beautiful through the perseverance and imagination of all our brothers and sisters.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Daniel Winner has a double major in Religious Studies and Japanese from Penn State University and has traveled internationally to the Far East on several occasions. His insights on Buddhism and Asian culture give a unique view of historical and modern trends. He will be serving as a contributor for Front Runner New Jersey.

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