Kwanzaa is a tradition honoring African-American culture first celebrated in 1966. It is based on a synthesis of philosophies drawing from Afrocentrism, cooperative (or socialistic) economics, and black nationalism. The founder, Ron Karenga, described the principles as “the seven-fold path of blackness: think black, talk black, act black, create black, buy black, vote black, and live black.”
Bridge of Light is a new tradition honoring the full dignity and equality of all people. It is the fruit of ideas generated at the 2004 Gay Spirit Culture Summit in Garrison, New York; first promoted by writer Joe Perez; first celebrated in 2004. It is based on principles of integral philosophy and spiritual evolution, however it does not require adherence to any particular worldview or perspective.
The six principles of Bridge of Light were not inspired directly from Kwanzaa, though there are obvious parallels and overlapping agreements. Instead, the principles were derived primarily from the founder’s analysis of two sources: first, mythic archetypes related to spiritual paths commonly practiced by the GLBT community and beyond; second, developmental stages related to universal spiritual processes as those stages are described by thinkers such as Ken Wilber and the Spiral Dynamics theory.
Author Christian de la Huerta’s description of queer archetypes in Coming Out Spiritually, Toby Johnson’s Gay Perspective, and Jim Marion’s evolutionary spirituality described in his book Putting on the Mind of Christ were additional significant influences. An additional influence was the statement on spirituality drafted at the 2004 Gay Spirit Culture Summit by a working group including Daniel Helminiak, Toby Johnson, Kip Dollar, and Cami Delgado.
Bridge of Light and Kwanzaa
The following table presents one way of mapping the seven principles of Kwanzaa to the six principles of Bridge of Light. However, there are clear differences between some of the principles and no identity is meant to be inferred.
|#||Kwanzaa||Bridge of Light|
|1||Umoja (Unity)||The rainbow/spectrum of Light|
|2||Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)||Self-Reliance (orange candle)|
|3||Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)||Integrity (blue candle)|
|4||Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)||Harmony (green candle)|
|5||Nia (Purpose)||Freedom (red candle)|
|6||Kuumba (Creativity)||Creativity (purple candle)|
|7||Imani (Faith)||Love (yellow candle)|
For example, the Kwanzaan principle of Ujamaa is commonly taken to refer to cooperative economics, especially the support of black businesses by black customers. There is no matching principle in Bridge of Light; however, the theme of human interconnectedness is important to the principle of Harmony (green) and the theme of economic self-sufficiency is important to the principle of Self-Reliance (orange).
Because Bridge of Light does not require any orthodox interpretations of the six principles, individual celebrants of the holiday are welcome to see connections to Kwanzaa or not, as best suits their own worldviews. The descriptions of each of the six principles are subject to translation for different audiences and contexts and are meant to be a starting point for discussing values in which we may agree or disagree.
Kwanzaa and Bridge of Light are concepts arising within the past 50 years, a time in which intellectual currents have been described as postmodern and post-postmodern/integral. They share a common vision that includes traditional values, virtues, principles, and heritages … respects diversity … and stresses common bonds to connect otherwise separate persons.
Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 to January 1 and Bridge of Light is celebrated from December 31 to January 1. The holidays have distinctive missions, values, and purposes. However, because there is significant overlap people are certainly welcome to honor both traditions.
African-Americans, some of whom already recognize the rainbow as a symbol that embraces their aspirations, are especially welcome to incorporate the six multicolored candles of Bridge of Light into their Kwanzaa traditions. And persons who want to honor African-American heritage as part of Bridge of Light are encouraged to add candles in the “pan-African” colors of red, green, and black.
For more on Kwanzaa, see the Official Kwanzaa web site.