Family, Holidays

Habari Gani? Kuumba!

My mom always used to tell me to leave things nicer than when I’d found (or borrowed) them. She always modeled this by offering to help clean when we were at others’ homes for dinner or meetings, or by sprucing up a borrowed item so that she returned it in better condition than when she’d borrowed it. I try to follow in her footsteps, but I’m sure I am not half as good at it as she is. 

The idea of Kuumba isn’t just creativity for creativity’s sake, but creativity in aesthecially bettering our communities. Wherever an environment is visually appealing, it always seems that morale is higher as well. We need to feel good about our surroundings because it goes a long way in helping to fight off negativity and depression. 

What if all our neighborhoods, no matter the income levels, were beautiful? What if all our neighborhoods were clean? What if we used our creativity to make this happen, regardless of how much money we do or do not have? I think it would make a huge difference in lifting the mood of a community’s residents. And when you feel better in life, you do better in life. 

It’s really pretty simple. 

So what kinds of things can you do this Kwanzaa to help express the principle of Kuumba?

Redecorate your home or get some early spring cleaning done! 

Help pick up trash in the neighborhood!

Find out if you can volunteer to beautify any public spaces in your community. 

We’re almost through! Tomorrow is the last day of Kwanzaa, and the New Year! We’ll be wrapping up this Kwanzaa series and hopefully employing the seven principles of Kwanzaa throughout 2017! 


Family, Holidays

Habari Gani? Nia!

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…” -Proverbs 29:18

The fifth day of Kwanzaa is all about purpose. The official Kwanzaa statement on purpose has a lot to do with finding out how one can use his or her strengths and abilities to contribute to his or her community and to the world at large. It is a good idea to take stock of what you are passionate about, good at, and enjoy doing. When you use your skills and interests to help solve community issues, you are stepping into your “purpose,” in terms of being a productive and proactive member of society. 

There is another layer of purpose that moves from the individual and toward Black people in the United States as a whole. What is our purpose here? Are we – as a group – fulfilling that purpose? This layer can be tricky, as it is totally up to opinion and interpretation and can be muddled with all sorts of different experiences and ideas of what it means to be Black in America. I don’t know that various people groups have “vision statements,” but I often think it would be interesting to see what the world would be like if every group of people in it strived for a particular ideal. And if that were the case, what would the Black ideal be?

Dr. Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa, is an atheist and the celebration of Kwanzaa is/can be totally free of religion if that’s what the celebrants prefer. But Kwanzaa can also be personalized so, because my family are followers of Christ, there is another layer to the issue of purpose. 

It’s fine to have our individual and national/ethnic purposes, as long as they don’t override our ultimate purpose which, I believe, is the glorification of Jesus Christ. As I consider the principle of purpose in the context of Kwanzaa, I also have to ask myself whether I am fulfilling my first and most important purpose – becoming more and more like Jesus. 

So what kinds of activities can we participate in on this fifth day of Kwanzaa? 

Talk with family and friends about purpose! What does it mean in your context? What can you be doing to fulfill it? What can you be doing to help others fulfill their purposes?

Create/update your goals! Try to include family and community building activities as goals, also. 

Create a new prayer rule! Orthodox Christians have a practice of creating prayer rules (specific prayers that they pray at specific times). Your prayer rule can be anything, as long as it helps you to focus on your spiritual growth/purposes. 

 Stay tuned for day 6 of Kwanzaa tomorrow! 

Family, Holidays

Habari Gani? Ujamaa!

I went to an HBCU from 2003-2006, and while I attended that school, there was a Black owned bookstore down the road that I frequented every now and again. I really loved looking around the bookstore, but never really had enough money to actually “shop” there. One day, I had the choice to purchase a book I needed from that bookstore, or from my campus bookstore. Although I felt, in my gut, that I should support the bookstore down the street, I ended up purchasing from my campus bookstore instead. 

A few weeks later, I learned that the little bookstore on the corner was being shut down because there wasn’t enough patronage. 

I  remember feeling so guilty, and so sad for the owner – whom I’d met a few times. Not that my one little purchase would have saved the shop, but it really struck me as ridiculous that in a predominantly black neighborhood, near an HBCU full of educated black students – a black owned bookstore had failed. More than just a bookstore failing, a black business owner lost his livelihood because he was not being supported by black people in his own community. 

I’m not saying that Black people should never make purchases from business owners of other races – but we should also invest in our own communities. We should help one another to get ahead by patronizing our own businesses whenever possible. 

And there’s an added benefit to this: when our children see us buying from Black business owners or using Black doctors, dentists, and lawyers – it sends the message that they can do more than sell records or play sports. It gives them professionals to look up to, so that when they are inevitably told that they can’t, they’ll know they can.

What are some ways that you can make cooperative economics a part of your life this season? 

Purchase gifts, books, and other small items from Black owned businesses whenever possible. 

Volunteer your time in a black owned business that may need the extra help. 

If there aren’t any black businesses near you, there are plenty online! 

We’re almost to the end of the Kwanzaa holiday! See you tomorrow for Kwanzaa’s fifth principle!

Family, Holidays, Uncategorized

Habari Gani? Ujima!


Collective work and responsibility is a two-fold idea. The first is collective work. We can work together to make the necessary improvements to our communities. The second idea is collective responsibility. When something is wrong within our community, it is the responsibility of all of us to continue working to make that thing better. I want to use the example of food deserts.

A food desert is an urban area where it is difficult to purchase quality, fresh foods. There might not be many quality grocery stores within a specific community, but in that same community you might find several fast food chains. Because of this, people in those communities are unable to eat well – or have to travel too far to do so.

Collective work would be if Black people around the US got together and committed to making quality food available in these neighborhoods. And this “work” would not only be done by the people in the neighborhoods, but also by people who are outside of them. Affluent Black families would have just as much of a part in making quality food available in lower income areas as families with lower incomes do. Collective responsibility would mean that until there are no more food deserts in the United States – we are all responsible for their eradication.

Collective work and responsibility takes unity a step further, because in addition to simply saying that we are united for a specific purpose – we also commit to doing the work together to accomplish that purpose.

What can you do to make collective work and responsibility a part of your life?

-Get together with some friends and decide on something you’re passionate about changing – then make a plan to help change it!

-Donate to a charity that works for a cause that you are passionate about.

-Commit to building an understanding of the issues that affect your community.

Use this third day of Kwanzaa as the catalyst for the changes that you want to see in your community!


Family, Holidays

Habari Gani? Kujuchagulia!

“You may not control all of the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” -Maya Angelou 

Today is all about self-determination. We are often told what we can’t do. I have personally heard statements like “Black people can’t learn,” or “Most of you guys (Black people) are lazy.” In schools, we aren’t taught our full history. We are only taught about slavery, but not about the great minds, authors, mathematicians, and kingdoms of ancient and modern-day African nations. As if Africa didn’t exist before slavery began. 

But in all honesty, we can’t blame our nation’s system for that. Our nation was settled by Europeans looking out for European interests. And any nation that colonizes another would do the same. Since our nation’s heritage is heavily European, it should not be surprising or troubling that European culture is predominant and beloved, here. 

What should trouble us, though, is how easily we have fallen prey to lies about who we are. It is up to us to take initiative in learning about and loving ourselves. There are so many beautiful things about our history and the various cultures from which we descend. What if we were all well-versed in those things and were able to stand tall in that knowledge? 

So, what are some ways that we can practice self-determination today? 

Learn something new about African or Black history!

Commit to reading a book of substance  by a Black author (think Chinua Achebe).

Assess yourself and your personal goals. Are you living up to your potential? How can you start doing that?

I look forward to day 3 of Kwanzaa tomorrow! Have a happy Tuesday! 

Family, Holidays

Habari Gani? Umoja! 

“There is more power in unity than in division.”  -Emanuel Cleaver 

Emanuel Cleaver’s quote seems like such a simple and obvious thing to say, but humanity in general cannot seem to get this whole unity thing down. We tend to want to divide ourselves into various categories and labels, instead of working together towards whatever it is that we want accomplished. This is a human problem, not just a Black problem, but the Black community does have it’s share of petty divisions. The first day of Kwanzaa is devoted to getting rid of divisive thought in the Black community. 

Although this post will primarily be about a big picture level of unity, I want to note that Kwanzaa emphasizes unity on a smaller scale as well. Unity in marriages and families, unity between friends, unity between students and teachers, unity in churches, and with the people in one’s own neighborhood. These smaller units are the building blocks on which larger scale unity is established.

In the Black community, there are divides between light and dark skinned people, there is a divide between what is considered “good” hair and “nappy” hair, there is a divide between those who choose to assimilate to White society (in terms of appearance like clothing and hair) and those who choose to embrace their Blackness (in terms of appearance). There is a divide between the enlightened – or “woke”- Black people and those who are still sleeping in the ignorance of whatever the “woke” ones feel that they are “woke” from. There is a divide between those Black people who speak standard English, have a college education, or live upwardly mobile professional lifestyles and those who are still on the streets. Some of these divisions are historically based, as slaves were pitted against one another to keep us from uniting and revolting. And other divisions are just petty superiority complexes, but in either case, these divisions that hold us back as a group in this country. 

On the flip side, there are so many things that we are doing right. We are publicly supporting one another’s accomplishments through hashtags like #blackgirlmagic or #blackguymagic. We are learning more about and traveling more often to nations in Africa and, instead of being embarrassed by Africa, we are embracing the continent of our ancestry and speaking up for it. We are pulling together to defend one another in times of injustice and that has led to our taking an interest in other groups of people who face injustice around the world. We are supporting one another’s businesses and taking initiative in providing our children with educational experiences that are relevant to who we are and where we have been as a group of people. There is so much about who we are and what we are doing in the world to be proud of. 

We need unity, because unity is not just a way to change how we are often viewed and treated in our nation. Unity is the only way we will survive. 

And that is not only true for the Black community in America – but it is true for all of humanity. 

So, here are some ways to celebrate unity after you light your kinara today!

Get to know someone new today or express your affection/appreciation for a loved one in your life! Unity starts with us supporting and loving on one another. 

If you’re into music, get together with others for a jam session! If not, perhaps a game night, karaoke night, lego night, arts and crafts night – or anything to help build bonds and create memories.

Write greeting cards to friends and family, congratulating their accomplishments or encouraging them through a tough time.

Honestly, the possibilities are endless! 

Find a way to build bonds of unity with the people in your life today, and I look forward to  a second day of Kwanzaa tomorrow! 


General, News and Current events

Why I Celebrate Kwanzaa


When I was a child, there was a woman in my (predominantly Black) church named Mama J. At the end of every year, Mama J gathered all of the kids together and created short presentations to acknowledge Kwanzaa on the Sunday before the holiday. I used to get the feeling that the people in my church allowed her to create these presentations because she was part of the family and people loved her – but that they didn’t otherwise care or feel that Kwanzaa was important. I did not grow up celebrating Kwanzaa, and as far as I know, the overwhelming majority of Black people do not celebrate it, either.

Over the past five or six years, however, my interest in celebrating Kwanzaa has tremendously grown. There are a lot of misconceptions about what Kwanzaa is and is not, but I understand why Mama J was so adamant about celebrating it. She wanted to instill in us a sense of self-worth in a world that so often – and in so many ways – tells us that we are inferior and worthless.

During this time of the #blacklivesmatter movement, when Black people all around the country are realizing that we do not matter to those in power in our nation, it’s important that we begin to take more of an initiative in defining ourselves. We are not all poor, we are not lazy, we are not morally deficient, we are not criminals, we are not unintelligent, we are not ugly, and we are not dirty. There is nothing wrong with us, except that we have allowed others to define us in this way for too long.

For me, Kwanzaa represents an intentional move toward learning about, owning, and celebrating my heritage. It represents an opportunity to positively contribute to the Black community and change the narrative that says we are uneducated criminals whose only ability to fit into society or find success is through rap or sports. Last year, I posted a Facebook status for each day of Kwanzaa that explains the Kwanzaa principle of the day. This year, I will spend a little more time elaborating on these principles and what they mean for me and for my family.

I can’t wait to get started! Have a wonderful Christmas and a great start to Hanukkah, and after that I hope you’ll follow along!