As we bring closure to the holiday season, Kwanzaa is a celebration that was founded in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga to ensure a way that African Americans could honor their culture and heritage. There are seven core principles that are highlighted during the last week of December where families (and communities) can participate in restoring African American people to their traditional greatness. The seven principles are:
· Umoja – Unity
· Kujichagulia – Self Determination
· Ujima – Collective work and responsibility
· Ujamaa – Cooperative Economics
· Nia – Purpose
· Kuumba – Creativity
· Imani – Faith
The fifth principle of Kwanzaa, Nia, speaks to me because of my commitment to family and legacy. It focuses on the necessity for us to be responsible to those who came before us (our ancestors) and to those who will follow (our descendants). Nia highlights our purpose (individually and collectively) with a strong focus around family. Family and community serve as a conduit for human development and the ability for all of us to thrive. When the family fails, society fails. Family serves as a safety net and the place where we can always return when the world pushes us away. Family helps us get back to our center, which reminds us of our greatness and helps guide us to our purpose.
Growing up my primary caregiver was my paternal grandmother. Time has a way of revealing the magnitude of someone long after they are gone. My grandmother was the glue in our family and her home was the central focus that brought us all together. Since her passing my home has become the place where my family gathers for holidays and special occasions. Her example taught me to always make a little extra food in case someone stops by unannounced; to make sure I offer a bed to someone who may need a place to lay their head; to not be in such a rush where I don’t make time to pause and listen to someone that has a heavy heart; and finally, to always have a little cash stashed in case someone needs a few dollars before they leave my home.
African Americans are a great people with a rich heritage. I am proud of my complete heritage. Over the holidays my daughter and I were sitting discussing our family heritage. We’ve discovered I am 50% German; 13% Benin/Togo; 12% Cameroon/Congo; 8% Ivory Coast/Ghana; 7% Mali; 4% Great Britain; 3% Nigeria; 2% Ireland and Scotland; and finally, 1% Sweden. Although the majority of my ethnic breakdown is more white than black, we know the one drop rule (if you have one drop of black blood you are considered black) and the fact that I was raised by my paternal African American grandmother, I feel it is my purpose to make sure my descendants understand their history and are proud of where they come from. It is important that history is not lost on the next generation. What role do you play in bringing your family legacy to life? This just may be your purpose.
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