Kwanzaa Lessons 2008


Notable moments and quotes heard during this year’s Kwanzaa:

Me: what is kwanzaa?
Boys: it’s the brown people holiday … and we’re half brown.
Me: close enough.

Wrapping up today’s Kwanzaa ritual in Broaddus fashion: watching Dr. Who defeat the daleks.

I love listening to the boys try to pronounce kujichagoolia (Kwanzaa day 2). Though Reese now has a harambee dance.

“No boys, unless ujima means ‘have a huge meltdown and hide in my office’, you didn’t practice it during pack up day at church.”

“No, ujamaa does not mean I get to spray paint ‘black owned’ on everything in the house. Not even your brother.”

“I seriously doubt Maulana Karenga imagined anyone doing the robot to the Harambee song.”

Kwanzaa Day 7 – Imani

January 1st – the Nguzo Saba principle of the day is Imani (ee-mah-nee), which means Faith.

To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle. Focuses on honoring the best of our traditions, draws upon the best in ourselves and helps us strive for a higher level of life for humankind, by affirming our self-worth and confidence in our ability to succeed and triumph in righteous struggle.

Today, the final green candle is lit.

Today is the time to answer soberly and humbly the three Kawaida questions:
-who am I?
-am I really who I say I am?
-am I all I ought to be?

We discussed the importance of faith and what our religious beliefs mean to our lives. The last day of Kwanzaa is capped with a feast. This coincides with our family tradition of everyone getting together at my uncle’s house for the smorgasbord that he prepares each year:

lobster, roast beef, curried goat, spicy shrimp, Jamaican patties, fried rice (with shrimp, pork, and chicken), macaroni and cheese, white rice, greens, stuffing, breadsticks/rolls (however, I saw through their evil plan: to fill us up with bread so that there’d be less room for the lobster). Dessert was four different kinds of pie and ice cream.

And because we haven’t had enough family time in the last week or so, the boys’ cousin is spending the night for a “boy party.” With will culminate with a marathon of Robin Hood, Cars, and the Nightmare Before Christmas. I can’t begin to describe to you how hilarious a rap contest between 4-6 year olds is. Freestyling for the next generation.

If I had to sum up Kwanzaa, it is a time of remembrance and appreciation. To remember where we’ve come from as a people and to value our time with family and community. It is a time of refocusing, reminding us of where we want to be and committing ourselves to getting there.

Libation Statement:
For the Motherland, cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors and their indomitable spirit.
For the elders, from whom we can learn much.
For our youth, who represent the promise of tomorrow.
For our people, the original people.
For our struggle and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja, the principle of unity which should guide us in all that we do.
For the Creator, who provides all things great and small.

Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee*

*Swahili for “Let’s all pull together” – We use the track from the Sounds of Blackness’ The Evolution of Gospel.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!!

Kwanzaa Day 6 – Kuumba

December 31st – the Nguzo Saba principle of the day is Kuumba (koo-oom-bah), which means Creativity.

To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. Makes use of our creative energies to build and maintain a strong and vibrant community.

Today, the red candle is lit.

Creativity is where our family lives and breathes. It’s more than a cultural mindset; it’s a spiritual mindset for us. How we live, how we worship, how we relate to one another all revolves around the joys of art and imagination. As “eikons”, formed in the image of God, we can’t help but be creators in our own right. In fact, we are tasked with joining Him in being co-creators, in participating in His act of creating.

The boys were tasked with making a drawing representing what Kwanzaa means to them. My oldest worked on drawing a kinara while my youngest, well, I’m happy if he can pronounce “Kwanzaa”. And now we begin the preparations for our “Food-y New Year”. Just some family over for dinner with each hour bringing a new entree/dish for us to try.

Libation Statement:
For the Motherland, cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors and their indomitable spirit.
For the elders, from whom we can learn much.
For our youth, who represent the promise of tomorrow.
For our people, the original people.
For our struggle and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja, the principle of unity which should guide us in all that we do.
For the Creator, who provides all things great and small.

Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee*

*Swahili for “Let’s all pull together” – We use the track from the Sounds of Blackness’ The Evolution of Gospel.

Kwanzaa Day 5 – Nia

December 30th – the Nguzo Saba principle of the day is Nia (nee-yah), which means Purpose.

To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. Encourages us to look within ourselves and to set personal goals that are beneficial to the community.

Today, the green candle is lit.

We discussed our purpose and what it means to be missional; how we incorporate Nia into the fabric of our faith. Another family drum circle broke out tonight. The boys wanted to drum dramatically as I read from their collection of stories, “Jackal’s Favorite Game.” Today we also opened another gift. This year’s Kwanzaa gift theme is books, with the boys receiving the book “If You Lived When There was Slavery in America.”

Libation Statement:
For the Motherland, cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors and their indomitable spirit.
For the elders, from whom we can learn much.
For our youth, who represent the promise of tomorrow.
For our people, the original people.
For our struggle and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja, the principle of unity which should guide us in all that we do.
For the Creator, who provides all things great and small.

Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee*

*Swahili for “Let’s all pull together” – We use the track from the Sounds of Blackness’ The Evolution of Gospel.

Kwanzaa Day 4 – Ujamaa

December 29th – the Nguzo Saba principle of the day is Ujamaa (oo-jah-mah), which means Cooperative Economics.

To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together. Emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support.

Today, the red candle is lit.

All of which we discussed over take out from Marble’s Café, a local Black-owned business. Hmm, my boys have developed a dance that they like to perform during our singing of Harambee. It is both disturbing and hypnotic.

Libation Statement:
For the Motherland, cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors and their indomitable spirit.
For the elders, from whom we can learn much.
For our youth, who represent the promise of tomorrow.
For our people, the original people.
For our struggle and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja, the principle of unity which should guide us in all that we do.
For the Creator, who provides all things great and small.

Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee*

*Swahili for “Let’s all pull together” – We use the track from the Sounds of Blackness’ The Evolution of Gospel.

Kwanzaa Day 3 – Ujima

December 28th – the Nguzo Saba principle of the day is Ujima (oo-gee-mah), which means Collective Work and Responsibility.

To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together. Reminds us of our obligation to the past, present, and future, and that we have a role to play in the community, society, and the world.

Today, the innermost green candle is lit.

After discussing ways we put this into practice, through church and helping our friends, we read from a collection of African-American children’s stories, a story entitled “Two Ways to Count to Ten.” We continued to read from their book on Kwanzaa (“The Story of Kwanzaa”).

Libation Statement:
For the Motherland, cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors and their indomitable spirit.
For the elders, from whom we can learn much.
For our youth, who represent the promise of tomorrow.
For our people, the original people.
For our struggle and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja, the principle of unity which should guide us in all that we do.
For the Creator, who provides all things great and small.

Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee*

*Swahili for “Let’s all pull together” – We use the track from the Sounds of Blackness’ The Evolution of Gospel.

Kwanzaa Day 2 – Kujichagulia

December 27th – the Nguzo Saba principle of the day is Kujichagulia (koo-gee-cha-goo-lee-yah), which means Self-Determination.

To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves. Requires that we define our common interests and make decisions that are in the best interest of our family and community.

Today, the innermost red candle is lit.

After an impromptu completely rhythmless family drum circle (we were enjoying the gifts from last year’s music themed Kwanzaa and the boys were still wound up from yesterday’s drummers and dancers), we discussed today’s principle. The importance of education, of having a plan, and supporting one another.

We read from a collection of African-American children’s stories, a story entitled “The Gift and the Giver” and opened our gift, a children’s book on Kwanzaa (“The Story of Kwanzaa”).

Kwanzaa question of the day: What do some of the terms mean?
Answer: Kwanzaa means “first fruits of harvest” in Swahili. The Ngozu Saba are the Seven Principles developed by Dr. Maulana Karenga when he came up with Kwanzaa. The candles (the mishumaa saba) are the colors of Kwanzaa: black (for the people), red (for the blood shed during their struggle), and green (for the land and the future hope that comes from the struggle). The candleholder is called a kinara, which sits on a straw mat called a mkeka. Beside them rests ears of corn for each child in the household (the vibunzi or muhindi). A basket filled with fruits (the matunda or mazao) represents the gathering in of the crops/harvests. The gifts given during Kwanzaa, which should be hand made or culturally centered, are called the zawadi. The unity cup (the kikombe cha umoja), from which the libation (tambiko) is taken, also sits on the mkeka.

Libation Statement:
For the Motherland, cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors and their indomitable spirit.
For the elders, from whom we can learn much.
For our youth, who represent the promise of tomorrow.
For our people, the original people.
For our struggle and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja, the principle of unity which should guide us in all that we do.
For the Creator, who provides all things great and small.

Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee*

*Swahili for “Let’s all pull together” – We use the track from the Sounds of Blackness’ The Evolution of Gospel.

Kwanzaa Day 1 – Umoja

December 26th – the Nguzo Saba principle of the day is Umoja (oo-mo-jah), which means Unity.

To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race. Stresses the importance of togetherness for the family and the community, which is reflected in the African saying, “I am We” or “I am because We are.”

Today, the black candle is lit.

In honor of Umoja, we met up with family at the Umoja Village Kwanzaa Festival, which will be the subject of an upcoming Intake column.

Kwanzaa question of the day: doesn’t celebrating Kwanzaa conflict with your Christian beliefs?

Answer: No. I’ve heard the argument before that Black Christians shouldn’t celebrate Kwanzaa for a variety of reasons. It isn’t a religious holiday and is as “pagan” a ritual as a birthday or an anniversary. Actually, much like those occasions, Kwanzaa is a time of remembrance, a cultural celebration.

One of the reasons I wanted to celebrate Kwanzaa as a family tradition was out of respect to both my multi-cultural heritage and that of my children. Few things answer questions as well as experience and this is a good reminder, reinforcing their story, appreciating this part of our heritage.

Libation Statement:
For the Motherland, cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors and their indomitable spirit.
For the elders, from whom we can learn much.
For our youth, who represent the promise of tomorrow.
For our people, the original people.
For our struggle and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja, the principle of unity which should guide us in all that we do.
For the Creator, who provides all things great and small.

Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee.*

*(Swahili for “Let’s all pull together”)