Kwanzaa is a week-long festival celebrated mainly in the U.S. from December 26 through January 1 each year. It was established in 1966 by the socialist and black nationalist Maulana Karenga, who promoted the holiday as a black alternative to Christmas. Karenga's idea was to celebrate the end of what he considered the Christmas-season exploitation of African Americans.
According to the official Kwanzaa website, the celebration was originally designed to foster "conditions that would enhance the revolutionary social change for the masses of Black Americans," and to provide a "reassessment, reclaiming, recommitment, remembrance, retrieval, resumption, resurrection and rejuvenation of those principles (Way of Life) utilized by Black Americans' ancestors."
Karenga postulated seven major principles to be emphasized during Kwanzaa, identifying each by its Swahili name:
Collective Work and Responsibility (Ujima)
Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa)
Ironically, these seven principles as a whole mirror precisely the principles that were embraced by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a pro-Marxist, revolutionary terrorist group of the 1970s.
The symbol most identified with Kwanzaa consists of seven colored candles placed in a menorah-like candelabrum. These candles borrow their color scheme from Marcus Garvey’s old black nationalist ensign. The lone black candle represents the so-called “black race.” The three red candles evoke images of socialist realism with bloody red banners waving to rally the oppressed for the overthrow of the established order. And the three green candles are meant to recall the splendor of Africa's landscapes.
When Karenga first established Kwanzaa, he and his votaries also crafted a flag of black nationalism and a pledge: "We pledge allegiance to the red, black, and green, our flag, the symbol of our eternal struggle, and to the land we must obtain; one nation of black people, with one G-d of us all, totally united in the struggle, for black love, black freedom, and black self-determination."
The philosophy underlying Kwanzaa is known as Kawaida, a variation of classical Marxism that also includes enmity toward white people. Practitioners of Kawaida believe that one's racial identity "determines life conditions, life chances, and self-understanding" -- just as Marxists identify class as the determining factor of one's life conditions.
The name "Kwanzaa" derives from the Swahili term "matunda yakwanza," or "first fruit," and the festival's trappings, as noted above, all have Swahili names. But Swahili is an East African language, whereas the slaves who were brought to North America came from West Africa. In other words, Swahili has no historical relevance whatsoever for American blacks. Karenga nonetheless elected to build his holiday around Swahili terms because Swahili was the trendy language in the Black Power movement during the 1960s.