Birthplace: Parsonsburg, Maryland
After meeting Malcolm X as a college student in the 1960s, Karenga became politicized and helped found the US organization, which among other things promoted a cultural revolution for African Americans. In 1966, Karenga created Kwanzaa, a holiday designed to celebrate and honor the values of ancient African cultures and inspire African Americans to greater pride in their heritage. Kwanzaa is based on the year-end harvest festivals that have taken place throughout Africa for thousands of years. The name comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” which means “first fruits of the harvest.” Karenga chose a phrase from Swahili because the language is used by various peoples throughout Africa.
Karenga is a professor in the Department of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach and is the director of the Kawaida Institute for Pan African Studies in Los Angeles.
See also Kwanzaa.