By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
Well Christmas of 2009 is over, and here it is Saturday, December 26, UMOJA, the first day of Kwanzaa is upon us. UMOJA, means Unity. And is the first candle that is lit on the Kinara.
The great news is that Maulana Ron Karenga will be in Brooklyn on Monday, December 28, at Boys and Girls High School to preside over the Kwanzaa celebration in conjunction with NAKO, and you’re all invited to attend.
The even more spectacular news is that this is the 43rd year that Kwanzaa has been celebrated in the African American communities throughout the United States, and indications are that it is getting stronger and stronger each year.
The important thing is that we begin to inculcate the principles of Kwanzaa each and every day, so that we can begin being the great people we already are, but have allowed to be hidden under clouds of negativity and psychosocial/economic oppression.
While it’s wonderful that Brother Karenga will be in our midst, there are any number of Kwanzaa “gurus” in every corner of our society, who have kept the tradition alive. I truly urge all of us to make sure that we are in attendance and participating fully in this wonderful celebration of our strength, resilience, resourcefulness, creativity, intelligence and love. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our ancestors to always remember and inculcate who we are and who we are yet to become.
Interestingly, practically everything we have invented or touched as a people from a positive standpoint, have been adopted in some shape, form or fashion by other cultures. Somehow we have been remiss in doing the same. It’s time to not only appreciate our special gifts individually and collectively, and to celebrate them, but to also put them into practice and expand them for our own betterment.
We hold ourselves out as the spiritual consciousness of the world, but we have failed, in large measure to use those wonderful gifts for ourselves and our children. Let’s invoke the spirit of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Brother Malcolm, Dr. Martin Luther King, and so many others who exhorted us to do for ourselves.
For those of you who are still unfamiliar with the NGUZO SABA (nnn-goo-zoh sah-bah) SEVEN PRINCIPLES or SEVEN DAYS OF KWANZAA and their meanings, here they are:
DAY 1: DECEMBER 26: UMOJA (ooh-moh-jah) - UNITY: solidarity, peaceful togetherness as families, friends, neighbors, communities;
DAY 2: DECEMBER 27: KUJICHAGULIA (koo-jee-chah-gu-lee-ah): SELF DETERMINATION: Right of persons and peoples to determine their own destiny and daily lives; to honor their culture and traditions, to live in peace and security and flourish in freedom;
EVENT ALERT: Kwanzaa Celebration at the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, from 12:00 to 5:00 pm. Bring your kids and celebrate.
DAY 3: DECEMBER 28: UJIMA (ooh-jee-mah): COLLECTIVE WORK & RESPONSIBILITY: Commitment to working together for the economic viability of one’s community/society; to build good communities without war or privation.
EVENT ALERT: Maulana Karenga at Boys and Girls High 6:00pm until - 1700 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY
DAY 4: DECEMBER 29: UJAMAA (ooh-jah-mah): COOPERATIVE ECONOMICS (Jamaa means family in Swahili): Shared work, wealth, the right to control and benefit from one’s labor; to receive equitable share in the goods of the world and the fruits of our labor; health, wealth, and prosperity individually and collectively;
DAY 5: DECEMBER 30: NIA (nee-ah) PURPOSE: Ethical basis for interaction and self development. Collectively bringing, increasing and sustaining the good in our lives and the world.
DAY 6: DECEMBER 31: KUUMBA (koo-oom-bah): CREATIVITY: A moral obligation to do all we can to develop, heal, repair, rebuild our homes, community and environment to the highest and best possible quality; to leave it more beautiful than we found it.
DAY 7: JANUARY 1, IMANI (ee-mah-nee); FAITH: the direct opposite of negativity, hostility, cynicism, despair, stress and depression. Believing that the good we seek to create is not only possible, but available to us as we work for it individually and collectively. You cannot have faith and doubt/worry/fear at the same time. If you spend more time in doubt and disbelief, you will get what you attract. We are what we think predominantly. Faith without works is dead; work without faith is slavery. IMANI charges us to remain in Faith, and live each and every day in the consciousness that we deserve the best life has to give, and to work for it, not in opposition to anyone else’s good, but in support of each other’s good.
EVENT ALERT: Throughout New York City, individuals and organizations host all day open events in honor of IMANI. Check your local papers, online calendars and friends for what's happening in your area.
The Kwanzaa Ceremony is very beautiful, traditional, and mirrors the highest and best of our blended, Eclectically Black traditions that span Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and the US (a/k/a the Diaspora). A Mkeka (mat) is set with a Kinara (candle holder with 7 candles), which are lit daily to signify each day/principle; there is a Kikombe (cup/challis) from which libations are poured in honor of our ancestors -- those who are in Africa, those who died during the middle passage, and those who were enslaved, as well as those who have survived so that we may continue to live (or died as martyrs trying to). After the libation, Zawadi (gifts) are given that signifies each of the principles on each day. There are fruits and other offerings on the Mkeka to signify the “fruits of or labor or a good harvest. Some urban families put dollars and photos of family members on the Mkeka as well.
The original of Kwanzaa was that it would be the alternative to the highly commercialized event Christmas had become. The gifts were to have been hand made as opposed to purchased. I admittedly celebrate both holidays, and think they both have significance and validity for those of us of African Heritage.
Though it is not a part of the NGUZO SABA, I think it would be wonderful to add one other principle, that appears to be sorely lacking among our people, and that is MPENDA (mmm-pen-dah) LOVE: Without LOVE none of the principles work as well as they should. We need to love ourselves and each other; our children, our families, friends.
It was because of the high calling of LOVE that our forebearers laid down their lives for us; risked their lives to teach us when it was illegal in this country to do so; stood for us against racists, when they would surely be cut down, arrested, harassed. It’s love that makes Black mothers lay aside their own needs to make sure their babies survive; that makes fathers work two and three jobs to make sure there is food on the table and a roof on our heads. It’s LOVE that makes so many unsung s/heroes write books about and for Black people; and so many of the leaders take the principled stands that they have. It’s the LOVE that will take us through 2010 to 2020 and beyond.
In the spirit of LOVE I say "MPENZI, Mimi ni kupenda sasa hivi, na tuwaliomba shirikisho. MUNGU ITAKU BARITI!**
(BELOVED, I LOVE YOU NOW, AND WISH YOU SUCCESS. GOD WILL BLESS YOU!)"**
**(now, for all my friends from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, etc., please don’t hold me on the literal translation. My Swahili is rusty. But I think you’ll agree that this is the gist of the saying. Ndio?)
Stay blessed &