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What’s Up With Kwanzaa?

Hope everyone’s Christmas was complete with family and happiness. If you thought that such a spirit lives for a few moments in December, you are indeed wrong and perhaps exhausted. There follows more family time and appreciation for any Black souls that share, also, a need for little historical significance in their life. Today is the first day of Kwanzaa, a holiday coming out of the sixties for the celebration of African-American or Black identity. For whoever that does not know, Kwanzaa begins the day after Christmas until New Years day. Forget all of the assumptions that the holiday is strictly for people born directly in Africa. Black skin indicates more than a good enough reason to celebrate. Our unique holiday dedicates itself to giving life to the principles that will restore the strong family bases we’ve seem to lost. So, in my encouragement of people to celebrate, I thought I would give people a few ideas as to how to observe Nguzu Saba, the Swahili translation of the Seven Principles.

I started Kwanzaa celebrations in my family when I was 14 and used the guidelines from the website above to lead. Beyond the different symbols and lighting the candles in kinara, the symbols of the Nguzu Saba, the website leaves the rest to your creativity.  Over the years my family participated in activities that help to realize the meaning of the principles. And here are some suggestions:

Umoja (Today December 26, 2010)

  • Umoja means unity. Most situations call for the support of many, that is why it is important to stick together especially when times get rough. Hope never dies when others are behind you.
    • Divide the family into groups of three. In each group there must be one person blindfolded, another made incapable of hearing (like wearing headphones listening to music), and a final excluded from talking. Together, the unhearing and the non-talking people have to guide the blinded through a drawing exercise.

Kujichagalia (Monday December 27, 2010)

  • Self Determination. As shown throughout history, Black people have always been over determined on the basis of our skin. This principle is to keep freedom in the hands of ourselves, as we can choose our direction and ideals as Black people.
    • Have everyone participate in writing “I am” poems, a series of lines that explain everything about a person.  At the end of the activity, it should be understood that who one is not a given, but a series of decisions.

Ujima (Tuesday December 28, 2010)

  • Collective Work and Responsibility. Any scholar embracing and African World View will tell you that a major downfall of post colonial worlds is the lack of community. In Africa, life was lead primarily by the claim “I am because we are.” Ujima reminds us of our obligations to each other.
    • Ask your people to answer three questions: For the next year, what is your biggest worry? What has been a goal that you were unable to reach? What is something that you have been very proud of that you think no one has paid attention to? After giving time for everyone to answer, conduct a speed dating experience. Have people rotate around one side of a table and talk to people that remain stationary on the other side. The activity ends when everyone discusses their responses.

  Ujamaa (Wednesday December 29, 2010)

  • Cooperative Economics. The creator of Kwanzaa found it important to have strong Black businesses. This is especially important when we are in a post modern world, overrun by profit and class gaps.
    • Initiate an imaginative activity. Have everyone brainstorm business that they individually would be interested in. This will create possible resolutions in the economics department of the famility.

Tune in Thursday for the rest of the principles. Wish everyone a happy Kwanzaa, and if it is your first time— hope everything goes well. Feel free to ask questions.


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