by Dr. Maulana Karenga
NGUZO SABA: THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES
While the Nguzo Saba are commonly linked to the yearly Kwanzaa celebration, they have year-round applicabilty and should be reviewed frequently. In addition to the Nguzo Saba, other Kwanzaa components (such as libations) also come into use during the year. If you want to study our Kwanzaa material, it can be accessed from
The first principle is a commitment to the idea of togetherness. This principle is a foundation; for without unity, neither the family nor the community can survive. National African-American unity begins with the family. Open discussions of family problems and their probable solutions are very important.
The second principle is a commitment to building our lives in our own images and interests. If we, as a people, are to achieve our goals we must take the responsibility for that achievement upon ourselves, for self-determination is the essence of freedom. This day calls for a reaffirmation of our commitment to Afrikan American’s struggle to build a more meaningful and fulfilling life.
COLLECTIVE WORK AND RESPONSIBILITY
The third principle encourages self-criticism and personal evaluation, as it relates to the common good of the family/community. Without collective work and struggle, progress is impossible. The family and the community must accept the reality that we are collectively responsible for our failures, as well as our victories and achievements. Discussions concerning each family member’s responsibility prove helpful in defining and achieving family goals.
Out of the fundamental concepts of “African Communal Living” comes the fourth principle of Kwanzaa. In a community or family, wealth and resources should be shared. On the national level, cooperative economics can help African-Americans take physical control of their own destinies. On this day, ideas should be shared and discussed for cooperative economic efforts to provide for needs as related to housing, education, food, day care, health, transportation and other goods and services.
The fifth day of Kwanzaa is a day for reviewing our purpose for living. Each family member should examine his/her ability to put his/her skill or talent to use In the service of the family and community at large. Take time to reflect on your expectations from life: discuss your desires and hopes with family and friends. On this day you should try to determine if this purpose will eventually result in positive achievements for family and community.
The sixth principle of the Nguzo Saba relates to building and developing our creative potential. It involves both aesthetic and material creations. It is essential that creativity be encouraged in all aspects of African American culture. It is through new ideas that we achieve higher levels of living and a greater appreciation for life. Each family member should find creative things to do throughout the year that will enhance the family as a whole. On this day, poetry reading, songfests, dance exhibitions and the like, can aid in promoting the Importance of Kuumba.
The seventh principle is belief in ourselves as individuals and as a people. Further, it is a commitment to the development of the family and the national African-American community. African America’s goal of freedom rests significantly on our belief in our own ability and right to control our own destiny. Without Imani (faith), there is no possibility of victory.
Maulana Karenga, Ph.D.