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Though he doesn’t consider himself the sole inventor, Dr. Maulana Karenga is probably best known as the man who created Kwanzaa, the recently instituted week-long, year-end harvest holiday tradition celebrated by millions of people around the world.  Get to know more about him:

1. Self-Determination

Dr. Karenga was actually given the name “Ronald McKinley Everett” at birth, but he changed it approximately 20 years later to Maulana Karenga, meaning “master teacher.” []

2. Agrarian Roots

He was born on July 14, 1941, on a poultry farm in Parsonburg, MD. He was the fourteenth child, seventh son. []

3. Doctor, Doctor

He has two Ph.D.’s. His first was awarded in 1976 from the United States International University for a 170-page dissertation titled “Afro-American Nationalism: Social Strategy and Struggle for Community.” His second was awarded in 1994 from the University of Southern California for an 803-page dissertation entitled “Maat, the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt: A Study in Classical African Ethics.” []

4. Textbook Smart

He is the author of 12 books including “Introduction to Black Studies,” a textbook now in its fourth edition; and is a Professor and Chair of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach. []

5. Organizer

In 1965 he co-founded the still operational Organization Us to provide a philosophy and program for “the building of moral community and to the constant becoming of the best of what it means to be both African and human in the fullest sense.” The principles of Us are the foundation of Kwanzaa. []

6. Accomplished Mission

He sat on the organizing committee and authored the mission statement of the Million Man March. []

7. Jail Time

In 1971 he was sentenced to one to ten years in prison for felonious assault and false imprisonment charges related to the torture of female members of the Organization Us. He served four years. []

8. From Another Mother

In an interview with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Gates recounts how writer and Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver said he used to read to Karenga in prison, when he still went by the name Ron. []

9. Movie Star

He appeared in the award-winning documentary, “500 Years Later,” a look at the state of the African diaspora; and stars in its sequel, “Motherland.” []

10. State Sanctioned

He is the recipient of numerous awards including many recognitions from local government committees like the 2005 Joint Legislative Resolution in Honor of Activism and Scholarship from the NJ Senate and General Assembly; the 1989 Citation for Scholarship, Leadership and Creation and Preservation and Promotion of African American Culture from the City Council of Philadelphia, PA; and the1982 Commendation for Scholarship, Activism and Community Service from the Common Council, City of Buffalo, NY. []

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