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chamomile

Kujichagulia

There are so many holidays at this time of year: Christmas, Hanukah, Yule, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Day . . . It’s such a wonderful time for celebrating. Some of the holidays are based on religious belief, some are more about social understanding, and some just come along with the calendar each year! As I’ve said before, my family celebrates Christmas. Unfortunately, I only had access to an extremely slow dial-up service during our Christmas trip to Montana, so I was unable to share thoughts and suggestions during that time. Now I’m back, and today is such a wonderful day to celebrate!
 
Today is December 27, which means it is the second day of Kwanzaa. I’m not of African descent, but I absolutely love the concept of the Festival of Kwanzaa. Until a few years ago, my understanding of the festival was really limited. It wasn’t something my family had ever delved into, as we were white and Christian, so it clearly wasn’t for us. 
 
During graduate school, I ended up directing a really interesting play for the Black Student Union at my university. The evening was accompanied by a soul-food dinner and wonderful gospel music by the local Bethel AME church choir. The night was such an inspiring sharing of community. I felt honored to have been a part of it all. 
 
You see, a gentleman I knew from school had created his own little theatre company by the name of Ujima. When he asked me to be involved in directing a play about a fictional meeting between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, he explained to me that Ujima was one of the seven guiding principles of Kwanzaa. It means “collective work and responsibility,” and we took that concept very seriously as we shared the playwright’s story of how these two great leaders of the Civil Rights Movement might have interacted before each was assassinated.
 
Anyway, it was during this time that I learned about the Festival of Kwanzaa. I had always been led to believe that it was a religious holiday, possibly involving some kind of scary voodoo. Only African-American people could participate, and it was certainly not something that a white girl from Montana would ever relate to.
 
Well, I haven’t found any specific rules saying that those with non-African backgrounds can’t celebrate Kwanzaa; although I haven’t seen any saying that we can, either. I don’t have a Kinara or a Kikombe cha umoja, but I do have a fascination with the principles of Kwanzaa. They are ideals that we should all strive for in our personal lives and our communities.
 
First, a quick background on the Festival of Kwanzaa. Dr. Maulana Karenga developed the concept of Kwanzaa back in 1966 in the United States. Part of the call for this holiday to be celebrated in the African-American community was the growing commercialization of Christmas. Some people erroneously believe that Kwanzaa is intended to replace Christmas, but that is untrue. It is a completely separate, non-religious, non-political holiday in which African-Americans are encouraged to celebrate their heritage by exploring one of the seven guiding principles (or Nguzo Saba) each day from December 26th through January 1st.
 
Today marks the second day of the Festival of Kwanzaa, and therefore, the second guiding principle is celebrated. It is the principle of Kujichagulia, or self determination. Because so much of Kwanzaa involves cooperation and unity, self determination should be looked at as making decisions that are not only good for ourselves but good for our family and the greater community. Doesn’t this sound a lot like what we try to do here at Something Good when we focus on ways that we can minimize our waste and use less resources?
 
Today’s suggestion is to take a few minutes to think about how you can make sure that your own behavior reflects your care and respect for the things and people around you. Perhaps you could use this opportunity to consider quitting smoking, as it has a harmful effect on both one’s own body and the physical and emotional well-being of family and friends. Maybe you want to experiment with switching from chemical to natural cleaners in order to make a healthier home for your children and a less polluted planet for all of us. By determining your own behavior, you can have a significant impact on those who rely upon you. What a wonderful way to do Something Good.
 

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