Almost 50 years ago in 1966, Dr. Maulana (Ron) Karenga created Kwanzaa as a substitute for Christmas for black folk. According to Wikipedia, Kwanzaa was inspired by the Swahili first fruits celebration, “matunda ya kwanza,” followed African traditions and was meant to give blacks the opportunity to celebrate themselves and their African heritage.
The seven principles of African Heritage, known as Nguzo Saba, are rituals that Karenga pegged as “communitarian African philosophy.” These principles are rules that should govern all our lives as descendants of African slaves and freed men and women.
But it seems that not only are these principles not being followed, but most don’t seem to even know them. As with many of our cultural themes, these principles are not being passed down through the generations. It seems easier these days to blame others for the conditions in our communities, instead of seeing ourselves for who we have become.
The seven principles of Kwanza or Nguzo Saba are:
1) Umoja means unity. Unity doesn’t just mean agreeing with everything some so-called “leader” instructs you to do. It also means unity in the family, in the community, in the nation and in the race. One need only look at the 6:00 news and see the black kids murdered by other blacks in drive-by shootings to know there is no unity.
2) Kujichagulia means self-determination. This principle was realized in the ’60s when we started calling ourselves “black,” then “African Americans.” But even African Americans is a misnomer, because there are white Africans who have become Americans just like there are black Africans who have become Americans. They are true African Americans. We are descendants of Africans and we are Americans.
3) Ujima means collective work and responsibility. This one has truly been rejected. Those who play the blame game want to blame all the problems besetting blacks on racism or the result of what whites have done to us. They bypass all the great strides made by those who have achieved greatness in spite of great odds. But they recall the horrors of slavery as the direct nexus to today’s crime and poverty.
4) Ujamaa means cooperative economics. Tell that to those thugs who burned down black-owned stores in Ferguson, Mo. under the guise of being mad and “wanting their voices heard” over a grand jury’s refusal to indict Officer Darren Wilson for killing black teenager Michael Brown, who by the way, attacked Officer Wilson while the man was still in his police cruiser.
5) Nia means purpose and refers to the collective building and development of our communities. This would mean no teenage pregnancies, no unwed mothers, no high school dropouts, no thugs, no gangsta rappers with nasty violent rap songs. This also means building on God-inspired values.
6) Kuumba means creativity – to leave our community more beautiful that we found it. That means no trash and garbage strewn across neighborhoods, but trees and flowers dotting the area. Do you know how many people think they have a right to throw trash out their car windows?
7) Imani means faith – faith in our parents, our teachers, in us as a people – faith that we will always act in the best interest of our people. I say it also means faith in our God.
In revisiting Kwanza, one should be sadden at what we see and hear. For years I have fought along the unheralded heroes who felt we could be better than what we see on the 6:00 news – robbing people, dealing drugs, killing cops and each other.
C. Delores Tucker passed in 2005 never seeing success in her fight against the anger and violence of gangsta rap songs. She even went to Jesse Jackson who chose to uplift the gangsta rappers who could line his pockets as he ran for president. She even went to Sony who saw dollar signs in the raw language spewed from the lips of those who wanted “to keep it real.”
Even the rappers on the African continent have little regard for the gangsta rappers in America, who have little regard for their women.So 2014 goes out and 2015 will come in seeing fewer people knowing the meaning of Kwanza. They don’t even know the true meaning of Christmas.
Barbara Howard is a political consultant, radio host and commentator and motivational speaker. She is Florida State chairwoman for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Trade & Travel goodwill ambassador to Kenya. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.