to say: "Happy New Year!"
And, as much as possible, help to make a year of peace.
Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"
Today, the daddy is feeling Kwanzaa, the principle from the 6th day of Kwanzaa: Kuumba(Creativity). But first, let's review the principles of Kwanzaa:
Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called "The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa", or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba - "The seven Principles of Blackness"), which Karenga said "is a communitarian African philosophy" consisting of Karenga's distillation of what he deemed "the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world." These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason that Karenga used to refer to his synthesized system of belief. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, which are explained by Karenga as follows:
These principles correspond to Karenga's notion that "the seven-fold path of blackness is think black, talk black, act black, create black, buy black, vote black, and live black."KUUMBA
People may celebrate either or all of the year-end holidays. And it makes little sense to attribute Kwanzaa's date of celebration to misconceptions about its replacing Christmas or Hanukkah when it is simply following a pre-established season for African first-fruit celebrations which precede both Hanukkah and Christmas. Moreover, Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday not a religious one. And it builds on African commonality, not on the religious, political and other choices we make which often separate us and cause us to focus on difference rather than similarity. In the final analysis, it all depends on personal choice; people choose holidays to celebrate, religions to practice and philosophies to follow. We do not show proper respect for diversity if we blame personal choice and change on one holiday or another.
Beliefnet: While many of us know that Kwanzaa is drawn from ancient African culture and tradition, how much of it comes from African religions? Lately it has been connected more closely to religion by many observers.
Maulana Karenga: Kwanzaa does not come from African religions, it comes from African culture. But no serious student of African culture - ancient or modern, continental or diasporan - can deny that African spirituality pervades African life. -------------------------------------------
Photo courtesy U.S. State Dept.
Stamp issued by the U.S. government in 1997.
Today, the daddy is feeling the Kwanzaa holiday and the principle of Ujima. This principle is a pledge "to build and maintain our community together and make our brothers and sisters problems our problems and to solve them together."
The daddy is thinking that the principle Ujima (collective work and responsibility) and Nia (purpose), when put together, clearly makes the Kwanzaa a collection of principles that remind us, that call upon, to pledge, or re-pledge, to work toward the betterment of our families and communities. But what does the founder of Kwanzaa, Ron Karenga, have to say? Here are some of the comments he made in an interview with Beliefnet.
People may celebrate either or all of the year-end holidays. And it makes little sense to attribute Kwanzaa's date of celebration to misconceptions about its replacing Christmas or Hanukkah when it is simply following a pre-established season for African first-fruit celebrations which precede both Hanukkah and Christmas.
Moreover, Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday not a religious one. And it builds on African commonality, not on the religious, political and other choices we make which often separate us and cause us to focus on difference rather than similarity. In the final analysis, it all depends on personal choice; people choose holidays to celebrate, religions to practice and philosophies to follow. We do not show proper respect for diversity if we blame personal choice and change on one holiday or another.
Beliefnet: While many of us know that Kwanzaa is drawn from ancient African culture and tradition, how much of it comes from African religions? Lately it has been connected more closely to religion by many observers.
Maulana Karenga: Kwanzaa does not come from African religions, it comes from African culture. But no serious student of African culture - ancient or modern, continental or diasporan - can deny that African spirituality pervades African life.
Also, as a celebration of family, community and culture, Kwanzaa is a time of ingathering of the people to reaffirm the bonds between them; a time of special reverence for the Creator, in thanks and respect for the blessings, bountifulness and beauty of creation; a time of commemoration of the past in pursuit of its lessons and in honor of its models of excellence, our ancestors; a time of recommitment to our highest cultural ideals in our ongoing efforts to be the best of what it means to be both African and human in the fullest sense; and a time for the celebration of the Good, the good of life and indeed, of existence, the good of the awesome and the ordinary, in a word, the good of the divine, the social and the natural. Who would find fault with these ethical practices?Finally, Kwanzaa brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be both African and human in its stress on four pillars of African ethics: the dignity and rights of the human person, the well-being and flourishing of family and community, the integrity and value of the environment, and the reciprocal solidarity and cooperation for mutual benefit of humanity. All these above emphases are ethical and at one level spiritual, but belong to no particular religion. And it is their inclusive character that allows people of good will to embrace them as essential elements of common ground for the common good.
Kwanzaa (pronounced KWAHN zuh) is an African-American holiday that begins on December 26 and lasts for seven days. The word Kwanzaa, sometimes spelled Kwanza, comes from the phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means first fruits in Kiswahili, an East African language.
The holiday was developed in 1966 in the United States by Maulana Karenga, a professor of Pan-African studies and a black cultural leader. The holiday centers on the Nguzo Saba, seven principles of black culture developed by Karenga. These principles are Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith).
There are also seven symbols of Kwanzaa: mazao (the fruits of the harvest), mkeka (a mat on which they are arranged), kinara (a candleholder), mishumaa saba (candles), muhindi (ears of corn, one for each child in the family), and the kikombe cha unoja (the chalice of unity). Finally, families exchange zawadi (gifts), which are often homemade. Each evening, families light one of the seven candles in the kinara and discuss the day's principle.
Near the end of the holiday, the community gathers for a feast called karamu. It features traditional foods, ceremonies honoring the ancestors, assessments of the old year and commitments for the new, performances, music, and dancing.
The official Kwanzaa website answers basic questions about Kwanzaa. Here are some questions and answers.
Kwanzaa was created:
The word "Kwanzaa" comes from the phrase, "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first-fruits." Kwanzaa's extra "a" evolved as a result of a particular history of the Organization Us. It was clone as an expression of African values in order to inspire the creativity of our children. In the early days of Us, there were seven children who each wanted to represent a letter of Kwanzaa. Since kwanza (first) has only six letters, we added an extra "a" to make it seven, thus creating "Kwanzaa."
Kwanzaa is a seven-day holiday for two reasons:
In terms of authenticity, Kwanzaa is modeled on first-fruits celebrations in ancient Africa, especially on Southern African first-fruits celebrations like Umkhost of Zululand which has seven days. The central reason for Kwanzaa's being seven days is to stress the Nguzo Saba and through this introduce and reaffirm communitarian values and practices which strengthen and celebrate family, community, and culture.
Kwanzaa grows among African people because:
Kwanzaa is clearly an African holiday created for African peoples. But other people can and do celebrate it, just like other people participate in Cinco de Mayo besides Mexicans; Chinese New Year besides Chinese; Native American pow wows besides Native Americans.
The question is, under what circumstances? There are both communal and public celebrations. One can properly hold a communal celebration dedicated essentially to community persons. But in a public context, say public school or college, we can properly have public celebrations which include others. How this is done depends on particular circumstances. But in any case, particular people should always be in control of and conduct their own celebrations. Audience attendance is one thing; conducting a ritual is another.
Any particular message that is good for a particular people, if it is human in its content and ethical in its grounding, speaks not just to that people, it speaks to the world.
The principles of Kwanzaa and the message of Kwanzaa has a universal message for all people of good will. It is rooted in African culture, and we speak as Africans must speak, not just to ourselves, but to the world. This continues our tradition of speaking our own special cultural truth and making our own unique contribution to the forward flow of human history.
Kwanzaa organizes people, gives them a chance to gather,and reinforce the bonds between them, and to focus on positive cultural values and practice. And in reinforcing the bonds between us and reaffirming us in the best of our values, we are strengthened in our struggle for a morally grounded and empowered community, a just and good society and a world of peace and freedom.
Kwanzaa helps us to focus on the collective aspect of what we are about as a people with its focus on ingathering of the people, special reverence for the Creator and creation, commemoration of the past, recommitment to our highest values, and celebration of the good in life.
Kwanzaa was created out of the philosophy of Kawaida, which is a cultural nationalist philosophy that argues that the key challenge in Black people's life is the challenge of culture, and that what Africans must do is to discover and bring forth the best of their culture, both ancient and current, and use it as a foundation to bring into being models of human excellence and possibilities to enrich and expand our lives.
It was created in 1966 in the midst of our struggles for liberation and was part of our organization Us' efforts to create, recreate and circulate African culture as an aid to building community, enriching Black consciousness, and reaffirming the value of cultural grounding for life and struggle.
Kwanzaa is not about self-esteem. Kwanzaa is about rootedness in your culture, knowledge of our culture and encouragement to act and create in such a way that self-respect will come of itself.
When you focus just on self-esteem you focus on individual orientation and that is against African values. We must focus on standing worthy before our people and in the world. Because we live in an individualistic society, people put such emphasis on self-gratification and self-indulgence they do not see that there is a collective aspect to what we are about as a people. The need to root oneself in one's culture, extract its models of excellence and possibility and emulate them in our ongoing efforts to be the best of what it means to be African and human.
We must make a distinction here between normal Ujamaa or the cooperative economic practice of artists and vendors to provide Kwanzaa materials and the corporate world's move to penetrate and dominate the community Kwanzaa market.
Operating with the primary purpose of making profits, corporate strategy consists of capitalizing on the African community's expanding practice of Kwanzaa and the accompanying expanding need for symbols and other items essential and related to the practice. To do this, these corporations will offer the standard enticements of convenience, variety, self-focus and self indulgence, ethnic imagery and other stimulants to cultivate and expand the consumer mind-set.
Moreover, they will camouflage their purely commercial interest in Kwanzaa by borrowing the language and symbols of the holiday itself to redefine it along commercial lines. Manipulating the language and symbols of Kwanzaa, they will seek not only to sell corporation-generated Kwanzaa items, but also to introduce a full range of corporate products as necessary for the practice of Kwanzaa. Thus, they will attempt not only to penetrate and dominate the Kwanzaa market, taking it from small-scale African American producers and vendors, but also redefine both the meaning and focus of Kwanzaa, making it another holiday of maximum and compelling shopping if we allow it.
The challenge, for the African American community as well as African communities everywhere is to resist the corporate commercialization of Kwanzaa; to reaffirm and to the essential meaning of Kwanzaa and refuse to cooperate with the corporate drive to dominate and redefine it and make it simply another holiday to maximize sales.
By upholding the philosophy and principles of Kwanzaa, Black people can and do pose a strong wall against the waves of commercialization which affect all holidays in this market culture which is essentially a culture of sales and consumption. For Kwanzaa is above all a cultural practice not a commercial one and external or internal attempts to redefine Kwanzaa in commercial terms are not defining Kwanzaa, but rather their commercial interest in it.
The wall of resistance to commercialization, then, is the people themselves and their conscientious and consistent focus on the vision of Kwanzaa and the practice of its values. Certainly, the central values of Kwanzaa are the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles: Umoja (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity); and Tmani (Faith). And the conscientious and consistent practice of these values provide an effective defense against the waves of commercialism which are defining features of a market culture.
The principles and practice of Umoja and Ujima require that celebrants stand in unity and assume collective responsibility for resistance to the commercialization and thus adulteration of Kwanzaa.
Nia, the central purpose of community building as a collective vocation, requires the defense of African culture and its highest values as expressed in Kwanzaa.
Kujichagulia demands a practice of self-determination in both the cultural and economic sense. It stresses the moral obligation of Africans to define themselves, speak for themselves, build for themselves, and make their own unique contribution to the forward flow of human history. Thus this principle prohibits collaboration in one's own oppression, the allowance of others to define African people or culture and turning to others for Kwanzaa items which the community itself has conceived of and has historically and rightfully made.
Kuumba insists on community creativity, specifically during Kwanzaa and especially providing its own symbols.
Ujamaa (cooperative economics) specifically requires control, not only of the economics of Kwanzaa, but also the very economy of the Black community in a mutually-beneficial process of shared work and shared wealth. No serious celebrants of Kwanzaa can support a corporate control of the economy of the Black community or the economics of Kwanzaa. Nor can they in good conscience drive small-scale community artists, producers, and vendors out of business by buying corporate products and aiding their penetration and domination of the Kwanzaa market.
Imani (faith) stresses the spiritual and ethical resistance to market values which undermine and distort the sacred and significant. It is an ancient African teaching of Egypt which says that through our culture and its spirituality and ethics, we are given that which endures in the midst of that which is overthrown, that which is permanent in the midst of that which passes away. Thus, the vision and values of Kwanzaa are in opposition to the commercialism of a market culture, upholds the sacred and significant and poses principles of African family, community and culture which enrich and expand human life rather than reduce it to a market calculation of the opportunity and promise of sales. In this way, Kwanzaa stands as an excellent representative of that which endures in the midst of that which is overthrown and that which is permanent in the midst of that which passes away.
Kwanzaa was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday. And it is not an alternative to people's religion or faith but a common ground of African culture.
One of the most important and meaningful ways to see and approach Kwanzaa is as a self-conscious cultural choice. Some celebrants see Kwanzaa as an alternative to the sentiments and practices of other holidays which stress the commercial or faddish or lack an African character or aspect. But they realize this is not Kwanzaa's true function or meaning. For Kwanzaa is not a reaction or substitute for anything. In fact, it offers a clear and self-conscious option, opportunity and chance to make a proactive choice, a self-affirming and positive choice as distinct from a reactive one.
Likewise, Kwanzaa is a cultural choice as distinct from a religious one. This point is important because when the question arises as to the relation between choosing Kwanzaa or/and Christmas, this distinction is not always made. This failure to make this distinction causes confusion, for it appears to suggest one must give up one's religion to practice one's culture. Whereas this might be true in other cases, it is not so in this case. For here, one can and should make a distinction between one's specific religion and one's general culture in which that religion is practiced. On one hand, Christmas is a religious holiday for Christians, but it is also a cultural holiday for Europeans. Thus, one can accept and revere the religious message and meaning but reject its European cultural accretions of Santa Claus, reindeer, mistletoe, frantic shopping, alienated gift-giving, etc.
This point can be made by citing two of the most frequent reasons Christian celebrants of Kwanzaa give for turning to Kwanzaa. The first reason is that it provides them with cultural grounding and reaffirmation as African Americans. The other reason is that it gives them a spiritual alternative to the commercialization of Christmas and the resultant move away from its original spiritual values and message.
Here it is of value to note that there is a real and important difference between spirituality as a general appreciation for and commitment to the transcendent, and religion which suggests formal structures and doctrines. Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, but a cultural one with an inherent spiritual quality as with all major African celebrations. This inherent spiritual quality is respect for the Transcendent, the Sacred, the Good, the Right. Thus, Africans of all faiths can and do celebrate Kwanzaa, i.e., Muslims, Christians, Black Hebrews, Jews, Buddhists, Bahai and Hindus as well as those who follow the ancient traditions of Maat, Yoruba, Ashanti, Dogon, etc. For what Kwanzaa offers is not an alternative to their religion or faith but a common ground of African culture which they all share and cherish. it is this common ground of culture on which they all meet, find ancient and enduring meaning and by which they are thus reaffirmed and reinforced.
11. In some cases people have added things to their celebration of Kwanzaa which seem to differ from its original vision and value. How should those who want to maintain the original vision and values and at the same time allow for diversity within the holiday respond to this?
The original vision and values of Kwanzaa must be maintained and nothing should be advocated or practiced which violates the original spirit, basic purpose and essential concepts which informed the creation and practice of Kwanzaa. However, two principles of Kwanzaa encourage creativity, diversity and flexibility within this general rule. These are Kuumba (creativity) and Kujichagulia (self-determination). So not only do we expect diversity of approaches as is true in any other holiday, but again as in other holidays, this diversity must be within a framework that strengthens the holiday, not undermines it. The need is for established practices and standards which constitute the identity and essence of the holiday. Otherwise, the holiday does not exist and is no more than individual approaches with no meaning except to the persons doing them. Creativity calls for new and beautiful ways of celebrating the holiday, not producing things and engaging in practices which destroy or diminish its value and meaning to us as a people. Self-determination calls for personal and collective expression which celebrate the holiday in unique ways, not in self-indulgent ways which undermine the common ground of views and values which give the holiday its identity, meaning anti value.
Values and value orientation are important, as Kawaicla philosophy teaches, because values are categories of commitment, priorities and excellence which indicate and enhance human possibilities. Kwanzaa puts forth seven key values, the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles) which offer standards of excellence and models of possibilities and which aid in building and reinforcing family, community and culture: Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba, Imani.
At the same time Kwanzaa reinforces associated values of truth, justice, propriety, harmony, balance, reciprocity and order embodied in the concept of Maat. In a word, it reminds us to hold to our ancient traditions as a people who are spiritually grounded, who respect our ancestors and elders, cherish and challenge our children, care for the vulnerable, relate rightfully to the environment and always seek and embrace the Good.
These questions and answers should help you explain Kwanzaa to others...So what are you waiting for?
|The daddy does not celebrate Christmas. He celebrates Kwanza. But he is feeling the |
people who do and thinks it's a good thing. He checked the web and found this nice photo journal about people giving to others and getting ready for Christmas. I found it on the Hurriyet Daily News. Check it out:
People walk past a Christmas tree inside a shopping mall in Istanbul, Turkey on Dec. 23, 2008. (REUTERS/Osman Orsal)
Cars drive past in front of a giant Christmas tree on Reforma avenue as part of Christmas celebrations in Mexico City December 23, 2008. (REUTERS/Henry Romero)
Pedestrians walk past the 22-metre-high, 50-ton statue "Hammering Man" by U.S. artist Jonathan Borofsky in Seoul , South Korea, during Christmas eve Dec 24, 2008. (REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak)
Local company staff, dressed as Santa Claus, ride motorcycles in downtown Hanoi on December 24, 2008. Christmas is celebrated in Vietnam, particually by the Catholic communittee, with at least six million believers out of a population of 86 million. (AFP PHOTO/HOANG DINH Nam)
People look at a house in Anhiers, northern France, bearing Christmas decorations in the form of 60,000 light bulbs. The Colson family began festively adourning their home with decorations in September, which will remain until Jan. 4. (AFP PHOTO / DENIS CHARLET)
They cooped you in their kitchens,
They penned you in their factories,
They gave you the jobs that they were too good for,
They tried to guarantee happiness to themselves
By shunting dirt and misery to you.
Me an’ muh baby gonna shine, shine.
Me an’ muh baby gonna shine.
The strong men keep a-comin’ on.
The strong men git stronger…
— From “Strong Men” by poet Sterling Brown