This year I decided that I wanted to know more about me, and that I wanted to go more in depth with my culture. One way that I have started that is I've started to observe Kwanzaa. For those of you who don't know, Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday that celebrates family, community, and culture. The name Kwanzaa comes from the phrase "matunda ya kwanzaa" which is "first fruits" in Swahili. Kwanzaa is a time to gather and unite as a community, and of course get closer to your own roots. Here is an exerpt from The Official Kwanzaa Website:
"Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach, author and scholar-activist who stresses the indispensable need to preserve, continually revitalize and promote African American culture."
Before I continue, remember that Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, not a religious one. This means it was made to be practiced by people of ALL religious faiths! Here I have included my way of observing Kwanzaa. For each Principle, there is a verse from the Bible, and a small devotional. Enjoy!
"How good and pleasant it is when Godʼs people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaronʼs beard, down on the collar of his robe."
Psalm 133:1-2 NIV
There are so many ways a person can achieve greatness alone. Think of all the one-man sports and competitions we have. We tend to glorify the single person and praise individuality so much that sometimes we forget that we are all one race, the human race, on this old cold rock we call Earth. Today's Principle is Umoja. This means "Unity". I am reminded of a story I read about an anthropologist who went to Africa. They set a basket of goodies next to a tree and told the local children that whoever makes it to the tree first gets all of the goodies. The children then got up, held hands, and ran there all together. When the anthropologist asked why, one child responded, "How can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?" The story was under the heading "Ubuntu Nation". Ubuntu means "I am what I am, because of who we all are." Wouldn't it be amazing if we all had hearts of UNITY/UMOJA like those children?
Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.
1 Corinthians 9:26 NIV
Do you think Usain Bolt would have ever won a race if he had no reason to run? Do you think Serena Williams would have ever won a match if she didn't have a purpose? Do you think any athlete would achieve anything without training, and moreover training with a purpose? No! Today's Principle is Kujichagulia. This means "Self-determination". If you are an artist, athelete, or a performer in any way, you know first-hand that without your drive, without your passion, and without your discipline, you are nothing more than "just another [insert title here]". SELF-DETERMINATION/KUJICHAGULIA is the driving and the giving of purpose to the only person you can control: yourself.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:17 NIV
WHO YA WITH?! It is often said that the people you hang around arewho you will become. So, look around. Who are you with? Are they helping you grow sharper? Better yet, are YOU sharpening them? Today's Principle is Ujima. This means "Working Together". It is up to you to bring up your fellows just as much as they should be building you up. The mindset of UJIMA/WORKING TOGETHER is how we as a community will succeed.
When Mosesʼ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
Exodus 17:12 NIV
A lot of you may know of a few of your friends that run small businesses. Whether they make things or provide a service, working small is hard. Sure, being your own boss is great, but it isn't easy, especially when your income determines whether or not you eat next week, or if you have enough money for your books for classes. Today's Principle is Ujamaa. This means "Cooperative Economics". A problem a few of us run into when selling our goods, is our friends and family. Yes, they often encourage us, but they don't support us. I don't know how many times I've been asked for a discount for family and friends. That isn't support. That's using me to your advantage. I have my prices set so that I can pay bills and have all the books and supplies that I need. If you can't afford to support me, either save up, or help spread the word! If we support our friends and family through UJAMAA/COOPERATIVE ECONOMICS, then everyone wins, and everyone succeeds.
I've decided to include some small businesses' Instagram accounts. Some are minority owned, and some aren't, but these folks are every bit of a part of my community regardless of color, so I support them. Feel free to check them out!
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
What do we call a thing that's just randomly sitting in our home? Clutter, trash, or anything along those lines, correct? Even if the object in question once had great usefulnesd, if it isn't living up to its purpose, it is no more useful than the trash in you dumpster. Today's Principle is Nia. This means "Purpose". As members of the human race, we should be working together to establish our purpose. If we have no reason for doing the things we do, what value do those actions hold? No more than clutter! So let us rediscover our NIA/PURPOSE and stop cluttering our lives and our communities.
Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.
Proverbs 22:29 NIV http://bible.com/111/pro.22.29.NIV
Everyone, in some form, is creative. Whether you draw, paint, sculpt, sing, dance, or even just dress nice, you are creative in some way! Today's Principle is Kuumba. This means "Creativity". It's time to stop saying "Oh no, I'm not creative at all!". Have you ever tried to just express yourself instead of trying to do things that everyone else views as creative? Maybe you're creative with your words, with you dress, or maybe you just color! That is still creativity! KUUMBA/CREATIVITY is a gift. We should never let it waste away!
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1 NIV
What are we without faith in ourselves and each other? If I do not believe that my community and myself can and will work together for the betterment of ourselves, then what am I doing? If I have no faith, what am I holding on to? What am I hoping for? Today's Principle is Imani. This means "Faith". IMANI/FAITH is the hope that one day, all of the pain and strife will be worth the goal for which we strive!
I hope that the new year is treating everyone well, and I hope that next time, people will join me in celebrating this amazing cultural holiday!