By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Kwanzaa is a seven-day African-American holiday that celebrates the accomplishments of Africans in America and all across the world.

Masai Skief is CEO of Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School. He says the school was founded on the ideals of the holiday and that Kwanzaa is a celebration based on seven interwoven principals.

“The first day of Kwanzaa is Umoja, which is Swahili for unity. The next day, which is December 27th, is Kujichagulia, which stands for self-determination. The third day is Ujima, which is collective work and responsibility.”

Ujamaa (collective economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith) are the remaining principals. Skief says the purpose of Kwanzaa is to allow the community to reflect on the past, celebrate the present and prepare for the future.

Families who celebrate Kwanzaa decorate their homes with kente cloth and art. The celebration includes a number of symbols, including a candle holder, seven candles, a unity cup and other items.

“There’s corn, which in Swahili is mahindi, which represents the children. There’s also crops you can lay on the table that represents the productivity of collective labor.”

Skief says, even though Kwanzaa was created to celebrate African and African-American accomplishments, the holiday is for everyone.

Kwanzaa begins December 26 and ends on January 2nd.

Harambee Institute will hold its annual Kwanzaa celebration on December 31st.  For more information about the school, go to

Top Content On CBSPhilly

Watch & Listen LIVE