Honoring Family, Community & Culture

kwanzaa_stampBy Beaunea McNeil, Unite Contributing Writer

The fall and winter holiday season is said to be the best time of the year. The feeling of togetherness, the food, the drinks and the celebration make each day a day worth waiting for.

While the holidays all bring out the same feeling in most people, each holiday itself is different. Some are cultural, others are spiritual, but all are a part of the melting pot that we each hold in the palms of our hands.

With the invention of new technology, studying the world is not as difficult as it used to be. By using a smartphones or computers, the world is at our fingertips, and the subject of culture is right in front of us.

From November to January, several holidays are celebrated in the United States and while some go under the radar, others are dominant in society.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Ramadan all have that dominance in common, but what about Kwanzaa? And what, exactly, does it mean to celebrate it?

Kwanzaa is a weeklong African American and Pan-African holiday dedicated to honoring and celebrating family, community and culture. The idea is to celebrate five key things while doing so. These key celebrations include ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment, and celebration.

While celebrating, Kwanzaa also encourages all people celebrating to focus on the seven principles, the cornerstone of the holiday. Each represents a single day.

Umoja, or “unity,” is expressed as the very first principle. This encourages unity in all fashions of being descendants of Africa.

Who are you? Who can you be? What can you create? This is the purpose of principle number two, Kujichagulia, or “self-determination.” This principle focuses on defining the self. In knowledge of leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama, Kujichagulia can be applied to anyone’s life.

The third principle is Ujima, meaning “collective work and responsibility.” This principle is honored on the third day and is an extension of unity, hoping to bring everyone together in order to solve problems as a whole. This means to make one person’s problems your own.

On the fourth day of Kwanzaa, Ujamaa is honored. This day is dedicated to “cooperative economics,” the idea of building and maintaining black businesses in order to prosper from them together. Grocery stores, community centers, gardens, parks, and restaurants are all examples of places that can help in collective economics.

The fifth principle, Nia, celebrates “purpose” and fights for the rebuilding of the communities around blacks in order to fulfill the greatness of all. Imagine what life in our own communities would be like if we simply came together to build them up. Do you think that it would be able to prosper?

Kuumba means “creativity.” This day is celebrated in hopes to cultivate the community, leaving it more beautiful than it was before it was inherited. This isn’t just like the movies featuring a black cast. It is through creativity that this could become reality. Green grass, sunny skies, and murals the size of buildings are not too far away and could expand the culture and teach the children of our new generation what we can be done to further a nation of black lives.

Lastly, the seventh day: Imani, or “faith.” The belief in a people. This day celebrates the entire African American race as there should be faith in what can be done. While believing in the self, as Kujichagulia defines itself, it is important to have faith in what a nation can do.

Though it is sometimes difficult to see the positive side of African American life in American media, having something as small as faith can, and will, have an effect on our communities as whole.

Believe that you can be, believe that WE can be.

For more information on Kwanzaa and what you can do to celebrate this year, please visit: www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/ For information about the local Kwanzaa celebration check for the date, place and time at Unite News Online website.