“Practicing the Principles of Kwanzaa: Repairing, Renewing and Remaking Our World”
Part II. Conceived and forged in the fires and furnace of the Black Freedom struggle of the 1960’s and rooted in a radical history of resistance, and community building, development and maintenance, the Nguzo Saba offer a value system and language which reflect and reaffirm this history and culture of struggle. Thus, the Nguzo Saba explanations for each principle give us a language of work, service, commitment, institution-building and righteous and relentless struggle. These principles call us to a committed and sustained practice of: striving and maintaining; defining, naming and creating; building; active caring and problem-solving; sharing responsibility and benefit; developing; and demonstrating an active faith in the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
The principle and practice of Umoja, unity, commits us to strive for and maintain a harmonious togetherness in life, love, work and struggle. It seeks and sustains a togetherness that is principled, purposeful, peaceful and productive. It is about coming together to reinforce the bonds between us, to continue to build new ones and to increase our capacity to do our work, wage our struggle and achieve and enjoy good in the world. It teaches the oneness and sacredness of life and the interrelatedness and interdependence of humanity and of humanity and the world. And it expands our arc of ethical concern and human sensitivity to the suffering, needs, aspirations, and struggles of others, calling on us to stand in active solidarity with other peoples and struggles for the expansion of human freedom, flourishing and good in the world.
Kujichagulia (self-determination) advances the fundamental principle of the right and responsibility of our people and all peoples to determine their own destiny and daily lives in dignity and freedom, practice their own culture, control and benefit from their own human and natural resources, pursue their aspirations and interests with due respect for the interests of others and the well-being of the world, and rise in righteous resistance to those who would deny them. Also, Kujichagulia calls on us to define ourselves by the good we do, and the dignity affirming ways we walk and do our work in the world; to name ourselves in ways that reflect rootedness in our history and culture; to create for ourselves in ways that affirm and advance life and contribute to human flourishing and the well-being of the world; and to speak for ourselves as self-conscious contributors to critical conversations addressing the fundamental issues confronting African people and humankind.
Ujima (collective work and responsibility), as a principle and practice also, reminds us and reaffirms that we must indeed build the just, good and sustainable world we want and deserve, and that it is a cooperative project, a shared responsibility to bring, increase and sustain good in the world as Odu Ifa teaches. It teaches us “to make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together” so that their cause becomes our cause and together we do the work and wage the struggles necessary to end domination, deprivation and degradation in their various forms in this society and throughout the world. For the battlefields for freedom, justice and good in the world are everywhere there is unfreedom, injustice and evil. Thus, we must stand in active solidarity with the oppressed, enslaved, brutalized and suffering peoples of the world, including the enslaved and abused Africans in Libya, the Middle East, Europe and everywhere; the peoples of occupied Haiti and Palestine; the peoples of Puerto Rico and Yemen; and the Aboriginals of Australia and the Rohingya of Myanmar. This means resisting and removing oppressions of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, age, ability, nationality and other constraints imposed on human life, human freedom and human flourishing everywhere. And, of course, it means again imagining a new world and new future and building and struggling for them together.
Ujamaa (cooperative economics) is the principle and practice of shared work and shared wealth central to the ethics of the community harvest. Ujamaa means familyhood and speaks to how we should do economics as familiars who care about each other’s well-being and the well-being of the world. Ujamaa upholds the rights and dignity of workers and the rights of all people to the good and wealth of the world and to be free from plunder by predatory corporations and countries. It rejects crass consumerism, vulgar individualism and market driven practices which pose plunder as progress, destruction of the earth as development, and ecocide as the salvation of the human species. It means imagining and putting in place economic cooperative structures that bring people together to increase capacity, satisfy needs, and learn and live life-enhancing values which can be transferred to other areas of life.
Nia (purpose) teaches us to develop a collective vocation as a people which has as its core aim and end the restoration of our people to their traditional greatness. Now, our ancestors taught that greatness is above all a moral conception and achievement in practice. Indeed, they remind us that greatness is not determined by the size of the buildings we build, the discoveries we make, the innovations we achieve or even the knowledge we acquire. Rather, it is how we use these capacities in the service of ourselves and others and for the well-being of the world. Speaking to the issue, they say in the Husia “the wise are known by their wisdom, but the great are known by their good deeds”. It is, thus, in doing good in and for the world that greatness is achieved and it is service to others and the world that opens the way to greatness as all the great women and men in our history have taught us and demonstrated in righteous deeds.
Kuumba (creativity) is the principle and practice of doing “all we can in the way we can in order to leave our community (and by extension the world) more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it”. It is to reach inside ourselves and constantly bring forth the best of what it means to be African and human in the world and to open new ways to understand and assert ourselves in life-enhancing, world-preserving and good-advancing ways. Here we are to create and recreate the world i.e., to repair, renew and remake it. We are to be placemakers and way-makers who through creative imagination and transformative action open spaces and ways for others which point toward a new history and future of humankind in harmony with the world.
The principle and practice of Imani (faith) begins with belief in the Good, the good of our people, our lives, our struggle and the world. It is also an active belief in our people’s right to the shared good of the world without denying or diminishing the right of others. Moreover, it calls for belief in our capacity to transform ourselves, society and the world and with other oppressed, struggling and progressive people bring into being a new history and hope for humankind. And finally, Imani requires faith in “the righteousness and victory of our struggle”. As Seba Malcolm said, our cause is just, our reasoning morally right and our desire and demand for freedom, justice and equity are compelling and uncompromisable.
If we are truly to accept and assume this awesome task of radically transforming the world, we must see ourselves in world-encompassing ways as injured physicians who have the capacity, both present and potential, to heal, repair, renew and remake ourselves in the process and practice of repairing, renewing and remaking the world. And this means, at a minimum, transforming it into an ever-expanding realm of human freedom, justice and flourishing in the context of the assured well-being of the world.
Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor and Chair of Africana Studies, California State University-Long Beach; Executive Director, African American Cultural Center (Us); Creator of Kwanzaa; and author of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture and Essays on Struggle: Position and Analysis, www.AfricanAmericanCulturalCenter-LA.org; www.OfficialKwanzaaWebsite.org; www.MaulanaKarenga.org.