candlesThe year 2011 marks the 46th annual Kwanzaa, which has grown to be celebrated by nearly 20 million people of African descent in America alone. Observed from December 26 to January 1, the week-long celebration is an African- American inspired holiday that has expanded to include all who have roots are in the Motherland. People of the African Diaspora worldwide are appreciating the meaning and message of Kwanzaa and are preparing to make it a part of their winter holiday celebrations. This year’s theme is "Kwanzaa and the Seven Principles: Sharing and Substaining the World." Kwanzaa 2011 will be marked with community festivities as well as family and organizational observances in different cities all over the US and some parts of the world.

One way to learn more about Kwanzaa and what it stands for is through watching the documentary film 'The Black Candle.' The very moving documentary was produced by award-winning author, filmmaker and professor M.K. Asante, who CNN calls a major storyteller and major creative force.  Narrated by Maya Angelou,The Black Candle is a landmark documentary that uses Kwanzaa as a vehicle to explore the African-American experience. The Black Candle is about the struggle and triumph of the African-American family, community, and culture. Asante, who has lectured in more than 25 countries as well as throughout the United States at hundreds of colleges, universities, libraries, conferences, and festivals, developed 'The Black Candle' in such a way as to give an in-deph, insightful look at Kwanzaa causing the viewer to identify more with the holiday's symbolism and meaning. Many notable leaders and black culture and heritage scholars are in the film. 'The Black Candle' is a must-see film that will enlighten it's viewers about the importance of the celebration of Kwanzaa. (www.theblackcandle.com)

Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 as the first specifically African American holiday.  Created as an opportunity to celebrate black pride and heritage, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society, Kwanzaa reinforces seven basic values of African culture. These values contribute to building and reinforcing family and community among African Americans as well as all people of African descent.  All seven days of Kwanzaa and its core focus and are rooted in its concern with these values called the Nguzo Saba which in Swahili means the Seven Principles.

Dr. Karenga, currently a professor at California State University in Long Beach, was a leading theorist of The Black Movement in the 1960’s whose writing credits have been quite extensive appearing in many journals and anthologies. The 1960’s brought forth a new awareness and sense of empowerment for African-Americans when they abandoned negative self-images and embraced their African heritage. Headed by Dr. Karenga, this new way of exploring blackness blossomed into the only nationally celebrated, native, non-religious, non-heroic, non-political African-American holiday. As more and more people of African descent desire to learn more about their heritage, Kwanzaa has become an ideal time to further explore African cultural roots.

As people of the African Diaspora prepare for Kwanzaa 2011, we must keep in mind the traditional way of celebrating it and observing the guidelines along with its core values and practices. Celebrating the holiday with integrity and a profound respect for its values involves adhering to the traditional meaning that is rooted in African culture. This also means observing Kwanzaa in its uniqueness and not mixing it with other holidays and symbols, and not tying it with any religion or political views. Kwanzaa is a Kiswahili word for "the first fruits of the harvest." Kiswahili is a non-tribal African language which encompasses a large portion of the African continent.  For more information, visit www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org.