What is the Nguzo Saba?

Kwanzaa, Nguzo Saba Image


Kwanzaa, African America’s first, non-heroic, cultural holiday, is based on principles of communal living and the cultural practices of Africans from Cape to Cairo and was first celebrated in December of 1966 by members of the US organization. The cornerstone of the holiday is the Black Value System, known as the Nguzo Saba, or Seven Principles first identified by Dr. Maulana Karenga, founder of US. He describes these principles as follows:

“The set of principles which we put forth is the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles): Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith). These Seven Principles are essential standards of personal and social excellence directed toward building and sustaining moral community, and strengthening and maintaining the community’s capacity to define, defend and develop its interests in the most positive and productive sense. In addition to being standards of excellence, the Nguzo Saba are also categories of priorities and categories of human possibilities. As categories of priorities, they tell us some of the most important things in our lives, identifying a key set of views, values and practices which we should, even must, put first in our personal and social life. And as categories of possibilities, the Nguzo Saba, offer us a set of principles which encourage thought and practice which help define, develop and enhance our humanity in the context of community and the world. [emphasis mine]—US Philosophy, Principles and Program



  • Umoja (oo-MO-jah): Unity. To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race. Unity stresses the importance of togetherness for the family and the community, which is reflected in the African saying, “I am We,” or “I am because We are.”
  • Kujichagulia (KOO-jee-chah-GOO-lee-ah): Self-determination. To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves. Self-Determination requires that we define our common interests and make decisions that are in the best interest of our family and community.
  • Ujima (oo-JEE-mah): Collective Work and Responsibility. To build and maintain our community together and to make our Brother’s and sister’s problems, our problems and to solve them together. Collective Work and Responsibility reminds us of our obligation to the past, present and future, and that we have a role to play in the community, society, and world.
  • Ujamaa (oo-jah-MAH-ah): Cooperative Economics. To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together. Cooperative economics emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support.
  • Nia (NEE-ah): Purpose. To make as our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. Purpose encourages us to look within ourselves and to set personal goals that are beneficial to the community.
  • Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah): Creativity. To do always as much as we can, in the way that we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful than when we inherited it. Creativity makes use of our creative energies to build and maintain a strong and vibrant community.
  • Imani (ee-MAH-nee): Faith. To believe with all our hearts in our parents, our teachers, our leaders, our people and the righteousness and victory of our struggle. Faith focuses on honoring the best of our traditions, draws upon the best in ourselves, and helps us strive for a higher level of life for humankind, by affirming our self-worth and confidence in our ability to succeed and triumph in righteous struggle