Ron Karenga

From Academic Kids

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Dr. Maulana Karenga

Ron Karenga (born July 14, 1941), also known as Ron Everett, is an author and activist best known as the founder of the African-American holiday of Kwanzaa, first celebrated in California, December 26, 1966 to January 1, 1967.

Karenga was chairman of the black studies department at California State University, Long Beach from 1989 to 2002. [1] ( In 1984, he co-hosted the conference out of which grew the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations, and in 1995, he sat on the organizing committee and authored the mission statement for the Million Man March. He is the director of the Kawaida Institute for Pan African Studies, [2] ( and the author of several books, including his Introduction to Black Studies, a comprehensive black studies textbook, now in its third edition.



Karenga was born on a poultry farm in Parsonsburg, Maryland, the 14th child of a Baptist minister. He moved to California in the late 1950s to attend Los Angeles City College and received a B.A.. He was admitted to University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as part of a federal program for students who had dropped out of high school, and received his Master's in political science and African studies.

According to the official Kwanzaa website, Karenga went on to earn two doctorates: a Ph.D. in political science from United States International University, a liberal education college with campuses in San Diego, Nairobi, and Mexico City, and another in social ethics from the University of Southern California. [3] (

US Organization and the Black Panthers

At the beginning of the 1960s, Karenga met Malcolm X and began to embrace black nationalism. Following the Watts riots in 1965, he interrupted his doctoral studies at UCLA and joined the Black Power movement. During this time he took the title "maulana," Swahili for "master teacher." He formed the US Organization ("us" as opposed to "them"), an outspoken black nationalist group.

In 1969, the US and the Black Panthers disagreed over who should head the new Afro-American Studies Center at UCLA. According to a Los Angeles Times article, Karenga and his supporters backed one candidate, the Panthers another. The Black Student Union set up a coalition to try to bring peace between the groups, which ended when US members George P. & Larry Joseph Stiner shot dead two members of the Black Panthers, John Jerome Huggins and Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter. The killing was dismissed by UCLA chancellor Charles E. Young as an unrelated incident. [4] (

The Black Panthers at the time Karenga of working with the FBI to destroy them. Recent COINTELPRO scholarship suggests there was a concerted government effort to create dissension between the two organizations, and that there were double agents within both organizations.

The US Organization disbanded in 1971 after Karenga, Louis Smith, and Luz Maria Tamayo were convicted of felonious assault and false imprisonment for assaulting and torturing two women from the United Slaves, Deborah Jones & Gail Davis. [5] (

Kawaida and Kwanzaa

In 1975, Karenga was released from California State Prison, with his newly adopted views on Marxism, and re-established the US organization under a new structure. Two years later, in 1977, he formulated a set of principles called Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. Kwanzaa is an adjunct of Kawaida. Karenga called on African-Americans to adopt his secular humanism and reject other practices as mythical (Karenga 1977, pp. 14, 23, 24, 27, 44-5).

Central to Karenga's doctrine are the Nguzu Saba, the Seven Principles of Blackness, which are reinforced during the seven days of Kwanzaa:

  • Umoja (Unity) – To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) – To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) – To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) – To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose) – To make our collective vocation the building and development of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (Creativity) – To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (Faith) – To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

External links

Books by Maulana Karenga

  • Introduction to Black Studies, 2002, 3rd edition, University of Sankore Press, ISBN 0943412234
  • Kwanzaa: Origin, Concepts, Practice, 1977, Kawaida Groundwork Committee

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