Habari Gani! What’s the news! Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
I saw that one of my coaching groups was looking for someone to write about Kwanzaa as part of their diversity newsletter. I remember going to my kids’ elementary schools every year to do the Kwanzaa presentation for their classes and have them write about one of the principles and color the pictures. It was my contribution to the culture. It was my practice of Kujichagulia/self-determination and offering it humbly to my children and their classmates as a concept of deciding who you are and who you want to be regardless of what others want to label you. And for Black children, especially Black boys, labeling is frequent.
So, I ask myself, why do I like Kwanzaa?
I like it because it’s Black. It’s grounded in principles and values that resonate with me. It is by us, about us, and for us. Kwanzaa is born out of the pro-Black movement of the late ‘60s that empowered African Americans to seek cultural knowledge and connection to Africa, from which we came, and to continue to push against the stereotypes of Black people worldwide, that came out of racial slavery, and its justifications (i.e., Black people are inferior). It is an official opportunity for us to instill in our children, and ourselves, values and principles that support our empowerment, our continued struggle, and our collective overcoming.
The community celebrations of Kwanzaa are usually long and festive, with vendors selling Black art, books, African clothing, and other cultural items. There is drumming, dancing, lighting of the Kwanzaa candles, the rituals of reciting the Nguzo Saba (or The Seven Principles), children running about, and wonderful food, in abundance, often potluck style. I can wear my African attire without explanation or justification. I can adorn my natural hair without feeling like the exotic and having to protect it from the curious hands of people who don’t look like me and have never seen Black hair in all its wonder up close and personal.
I like Kwanzaa because I get to dance to live drums and feel free in the doing of it in community with others who look like me, moving my arms and legs, flinging my head and locs, in precision that frees and heals my soul in ways that nothing else can.
I also like Kwanzaa because it allows another seven days of celebration during the holiday season leading up to New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This season with Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, and the celebration of lights, is my all-time favorite season. I love the decorations, that people are especially nice to each other during the holidays, and the festivities with all the food, drinks and desserts, and loved ones wishing each other good cheer.
This was a good exercise for me. Thanks, Sara, for the email that inspired me to remember the power and significance of Kwanzaa.
To learn more, here are a few resources:
- Kwanzaa Now Campaign https://www.kwanzaanow.org/resources
- Official Kwanzaa Website https://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/
- Children’s Kwanzaa Village https://childrenskwanzaavillage.com/
- Atlanta Regional Kwanzaa Association https://kwanzaaassociation.org/
- African American Museum & Library at Oakland Kwanzaa resource guide (great book list) https://oaklandlibrary.org/content/kwanzaa/