The Story behind of Kwanzaa Gets an A
My daughter, Kennedy Thedford, a student at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia,
inspired me to write about why the African American holiday of Kwanzaa has two A’s when the
Swahili word has only one. She asked the question because all other holidays, such as
Christmas and Hanukkah, have a story behind them. What was the story of Kwanzaa? I didn’t
have an answer, so I began researching the holiday. In conducting that research, I ran across
different stories of why Kwanzaa has that extra A. One explanation said that an extra A was
added to the end of the word Kwanzaa to distinguish the American celebration of the holiday
from the African word of Kwanza. Another author said the extra letter was added to the Swahili
word to give the word seven letters to match the seven principles and symbols of the holiday.
Yet, after reading a couple of Dr. Karenga’s books, I learned that Kwanzaa has two A’s because
he added an extra to the word kwanza at the first celebration so that all seven children present
could participate, an African tradition. Also, my research inspired me to write a picture book
titled, Kwanzaa Gets an A. The publication uses verse to tell children the story of Kwanzaa and
how it got an extra A. This is one of the few picture books that gives some history of Kwanzaa.
More importantly, the book has the potential to become a classic, much like ‘Twas the Night
Before Christmas and the Story of Hanukkah. In other words, parents will read their children this
Story every Kwanzaa.