Dr. Maulana Karenga invented Kwanzaa in 1966, while working at California State University, Long Beach. In a time of civil unrest, he was looking for a way to bring African Americans together to celebrate their African heritage. He studied the “first fruit” (matunda ya kwanza) or harvest celebrations of several African cultures, and combined them together to form the traditions of Kwanzaa. He decided it would last seven nights to celebrate seven values that many African cultures share and that could help African Americans in troubled times: unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. He began a tradition of lighting a different candle each night, and inviting friends and family to discuss the principle of that night. It would start on December 26th, and a traditional African feast would take place on December 31st.
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