In what became his final acknowledgement of Kwanzaa as President of United States, Barack Obama wished a “happy and healthy new year” to celebrants of the seven-day holiday, which turned 50 years old on Monday.
According to the Associated Press, Obama issued his Kwanzaa message on Monday from Hawaii, where he is spending his annual winter vacation with the first family. The holiday is a time to “reflect on the rich African-American culture,” Obama said of the weeklong festivities, which observe African and African-American heritage and traditions.
The president emphasized the principles enshrined in the Kwanzaa holiday: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. He said those principles reflect Americans’ most cherished values.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Kwanzaa, created by Maulana Karenga in 1966 during a time of great racial and social turmoil in our country, but also a renewed sense of Black pride.
“We reflect on the expansive meaning of being African in the world, on the context and issues of our times, and on our way forward in struggle to forge a future responsive to our needs and interests as well as those of the world,” Karenga said in a statement acknowledging the milestone anniversary.
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“At this historical milestone and marker, it is good to remember and reflect on the origins of Kwanzaa, not only in the ancient African festivals of harvest and shared good, but also its origins in the relentless and righteous struggles of the Sixties, i.e., the Black Freedom Movement for freedom, justice, equality, and power of our people over their destiny and daily lives.”
“Kwanzaa is clearly a celebration of family, community and culture, but it is also a celebration of freedom, an act of freedom and an instrument of freedom,” Karenga wrote. “It is an act of freedom in its recovery and reconstruction of African culture, our return to its best values and practices and our resistance to the imposition of Eurocentric ways of understanding and engaging the world.”
“Kwanzaa was also conceived as an instrument of struggle, to raise and cultivate the consciousness of the people, to unite them around principles that anchored and elevated their lives and involve them in the struggle to be themselves and free themselves and build the just and good world we all want, work for and deserve. And thus, Kwanzaa is a celebration of freedom, of the freedom struggle itself in which Kwanzaa is grounded, a celebration of our choosing to free ourselves and be ourselves, as Africans, and to rejoice in the richness of our history and culture of awesome and audacious striving and struggle.”
To can learn more about the seven days of Kwanzaa here.