While the Nguzo Saba are commonly linked to the yearly Kwanzaa celebration, they have year-round applicabilty and should be reviewed from time to time. In addition to the Nguzo Saba, other Kwanzaa components (such as libations) also come into use during the year. If you with to look at our Kwanzaa material, it can be accessed from the bottom of this page.




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 Black America's struggle to build a more meaningful and fulfilling life.
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.
7 September 1965


The Nguzo Saba:
The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa
(revised 12/02/03)

At the heart and soul of Kwanzaa is the Nguzo Saba, Kiswahili for seven principles. The purpose of these principles is to set a value system specifically for the black family.  This is described below by Dr. Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa: 
"Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce seven basic values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing family, community and culture among African American people as well as Africans throughout the world African community." "The Official Kwanzaa Website" (section on Nguzo Saba)
This is also made evident in his earlier 1977 book on Kwanzaa, Kwanzaa: Origin, Concepts, Practice:
"Thus the core principles of Kwanzaa are the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles) which I developed and proposed during the Black Cultural Revolution in the Sixties as a necessary minimum set of principles by which Black people must live in order to begin to rescue and reconstruct our history and lives.  The Nguzo Saba are thus, social principles dealing with ways for us to relate to each other and rebuild our lives in our won image."  pg 14.
Belief in God Condemned
Dr. Karenga's hatred of God-fearing religions prompted him to create his own system of principles that apparently he hoped would steer men away from what he felt was a weakness -- a belief in God.  An example of his opinion of religion is the following quote from his book, Kawaida Theory (1980):
"Belief in spooks who threaten us if we don't worship them and demand we turn over our destiny and daily lives must be categorized as spookism and condemned." pg 27
And also when he says of Christianity and Judaism in his list of negatives of religion:
" is a simplistic and often erroneous answer to existential ignorance fear, powerlessness and alienation.  An example is the Hebrew myth of the six-day creation and the tower of Babel, or Christian myths of resurrection, heaven and hell;" Kawaida Theory, p 23.
" often denies and diminishes human worth, capacity, potential and achievement.  In Christian and Jewish mythology, humans are born in sin, cursed with mythical ancestors who've sinned and brought the wrath of an angry God on every generation's head. ... If a mythical being has done, does and will do everything, what's our relevance and role in the world?" K.T. p 24.
And in spite of claiming Kwanzaa to be a time of giving "reverence to the Creator" as he claims now (Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture,, pg 19), his disdain for prayer of any type is shown in his early writings.
"Thus if persons want to fast or pray, read numbers, stare at stars, chant spookistic slogans or anything similar, they may, but is is imperative that they not add these to or pretend they are a part of the principles and practices of Kwanzaa." Kawaida Theory, p 15. 
It wouldn't be erroneous to say that Karenga intended to create a celebration that steered Blacks away from God, but to celebrate and honor man instead.  He makes this clear when he makes the following statement in his book, Kawaida Theory:
"When messenger Muhammad taught that we are Gods and can make history and remake the world in our own image and interests, he set a good example." p 27.

The Nguzo Saba - A Black Way of Life
The Nguzo Saba are seven principles clearly set apart for the Black American and not for others.  It is also an attempt by Dr. Karenga to introduce humanistic principles for improving life without God.  Kwanzaa is not just a cultural celebration, but an attempt to establish a way of life with man as the center of worship and reverence.  
If anything, many are accepting these principles as SPIRITUAL principles and a guide for their lives.  A disturbing fact for the Christian who believes that all spiritual principles begin with the Bible and not with man.

The Nguzo Saba 
1) Umoja (Unity) "To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race." 

"...unity means a oneness, a similarity and sameness that gives us an identity as a people, an African people.Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture, p 44.

2) Kujichagulia (Self-determination) "To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves instead of being defined, named, created for and spoken for by others."

"The principle and practice of self-determination expresses and supports the concept and practice of Afrocentricity. Afrocentricity is a quality of thought and practice which is rooted in the cultural image and human interests of African people." p 50.

3) Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) "To build and maintain our community together and make our sister's and brother's problems our problems and to solve them together. commitment to active and informed togetherness on matters of common interest.  It is also recognition and respect for the fact that without collective work and struggle, progress is impossible and liberation unthinkable." p 51.

4) Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) "To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together."

*"The fourth principle ... is essentially a commitment to the practice of shared social wealth and the work necessary to achieve it." p 55.

5) Nia (Purpose)
"To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
The assumption here is that our role in human history has been and remains a key one; that we as an African people share in the great human legacy Africa has given the world." p 58.

6) Kuumba (Creativity)
"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." p 61.

7) Imani (Faith)
"To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle."

"For in all African spiritual traditions, from Egypt on, it is taught that we are in the image of the Creator and thus capable of ultimate righteousness and creativity through self-mastery and development in the context of positive support." p 65.

What is Kwanzaa? | Is Kwanzaa A Religion? | Contradictions | Ancestor Worship 
Is Kwanzaa a Christmas Substitute? | A Response to Kwanzaa 
Guest Writer: La Shawn Barber - Kwanzaa is for Pagans
Guest Writer: Rev. Robert Ash - "Another Viewpoint"

Back to the Top of Page