My sense of gratefulness deepens as the festive nature of the holidays extends into my favorite Holiday, Kwanzaa.
I love the Holiday Season. From the early days of Thanksgiving, through Christmas, we are offered many ways to experience gratefulness, culminating in the momentous day originated to celebrate the birth of Christ. My sense of gratefulness deepens as the festive nature of the holidays extends into my favorite Holiday, Kwanzaa. Beginning the day following Christmas, Kwanzaa unfolds as a seven-day celebration oriented towards creating a morally uplifting direction for society. (For history, etymology, principles, and symbols, see “Kwanzaa” on Wikipedia).
I first learned about Kwanzaa in the early 70’s through my role as teacher of first grade students at a school for children of African descent, called Uhuru Sasa, (a Swahili term meaning “Freedom Now”) located in Brooklyn, New York. Through the direction of our school’s founder/director, Mr. Les Campbell, we learned about the work of Dr. Maulana Karenga, who created Kwanzaa in 1966 as a movement that pays homage to African heritage in African-American culture. A primary component of Kwanzaa is unveiled in seven principles, entitled “Nguzo Saba”, which Dr. Karenga called “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.” The principles, listed below, are practiced, one each on the seven days of Kwanzaa:
- Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to 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 brothers’ and sisters’ 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 developing 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 hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
In addition to adopting the practice of the Nguzo Saba as part of the school’s classroom curriculum, we extended the practice through an outreach program. By offering the practice of students reciting the Nguzo Saba through family visits, heartwarming bonds were created between families, students, teachers, and the school. Parents welcomed the opportunity to partake in this uplifting experience. Priceless benefits were created through this process, learning was enhanced on many levels, and gratefulness was enjoyed by all participants in the exercise.
I feel honored for the opportunity to share a deep aspect of my African culture, and to offer my love to the world.
Today I am excited about a unique, personal way to bring the African heritage of Kwanzaa into my own family. Christmas bells of yesterday will now usher in Day 1 of Kwanzaa. Today, my family will celebrate the first principle of the Nguzo Saba – “Umoja (Unity): To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.” Today, our daughter and two grandsons, Djelimory – age 16, and Djahkla – age 7, will arrive in time to help us celebrate this momentous day. They will also have the opportunity to join us in welcoming friends coming to our home for an informal Kwanzaa celebration and potluck on Day 3 – “Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.”
Through our tradition of Kwanzaa, my sense of gratitude has reached levels I could never have anticipated. Just through the invitation to offer my story for this website which celebrates gratefulness in many traditions, I feel honored for the opportunity to share a deep aspect of my African culture, and to offer my love to the world. In his mission statement for 2015, Dr. Karenga speaks of the necessity to meditate in order to know oneself; and from the words of the most ancient wisdom, we know that we are encouraged to “know thyself, and to thine own self be true.” These words speak to my heart. I offer them to you as you reach for your highest good.