WE WIN Institute’s annual Kwanzaa celebration. (photo: WE WIN Institute)

KWANZAA is an African American holiday traditionally observed from December 26 to January 1. The celebration is a time when people reflect on the basic principles of KWANZAA and recommit themselves to the collective achievements of a better way of life for their families and communities; share their knowledge of their ancestral history and culture; and enjoy the fruits of their labor. It is based on a seven (7) principle value system. The principles of Kwanzaa are: Umoja which means Unity, Kujichagulia which means Self Determination, Ujima which means Collective Work and Responsibility, Ujamaa which means Cooperative Economics, Nia which means Purpose, Kuumba which means Creativity and Imani which means Faith. Each year students from the African, Asian, European, Latino, and Native American communities participate in the event.

WE WIN Institute’s KWANZAA program began in the Minneapolis Public Schools with a class of sixth-graders. Many of these children were underachievers and had been labeled “at risk”. They had not responded to traditional learning programs. They lived in poor communities and came from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

Together with their teacher, Titilayo Bediako, they discovered that learning could take place in an environment where they understood themselves and each other by respecting differences. They also learned that academic and creative progress was most successful in the context of honoring and exploring their cultural backgrounds.

The goals and objectives of WE WIN Institute’s Kwanzaa program are:

  • To instill positive images of cultural images and history in children and adults.
We accomplish this through a series of carefully planned lessons using books, videos, research assignments, and interactive discussions.
  • Teach children to understand and celebrate their own cultural heritage.
To expand this understanding toward an appreciation of other cultures and help build strong communities. We do this by helping children uncover and share publicly, stories and traditions of their ancestry and heritage.
  • Give children an opportunity to participate in the cultural expressions of African, Asian, European, Latino, and Native American people.
We accomplish this through culturally specific activities involving ritual and art, learned throughout the KWANZAA process and shared with audiences at the KWANZAA celebration.
  • Expand children’s artistic and creative expression.
We do this through the sharing of various culturally specific arts activities. visual arts, music, dance, costuming, and storytelling.
  • Give children the confidence to perform publicly and feel recognized and appreciated by their communities.
This happens when children receive applause and recognition following their performances.
  • Increase children’s academic and social skills.
This is done through reading, writing and communications projects in the context of KWANZAA activities.