Why I celebrate Kwanzaa

Filed under COLUMNISTS, COMMENTARIES

00-anthonyhallIt’s a curious thing that so many Black Americans – who insist on calling themselves African-Americans – know so little about their American heritage, and even less about their African ancestry. But this is probably because “Black pride” is about as ethereal and subjective as religious faith.

Nonetheless, just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us the objective value of judging people “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” I humbly suggest that racial pride should be based not on the assumption of things unseen, but on substance of deeds done.

It is in this spirit of racial enlightenment that I celebrate Kwanzaa (December 26 to January 1). In so doing, I pay homage to the Afrocentric Dr. Maulana Karenga who founded this holiday in 1966 “not to substitute for Christmas,” but to reaffirm what it is to be of African ancestry.

More important, though, if all Black people endeavored to live according to the seven guiding principles (Nguzo Saba) of Kwanzaa, then having Black pride would entail far more than spouting off hollow rhetoric:
1. Umoja: (oo-MO-jah) Unity stresses the importance of togetherness for the family and the community, which is reflected in the African saying, “I am We” or “I am because We are.”
2. Kujichagulia: (koo-gee-cha-goo-LEE-yah) Self-determination requires that we define our common interests and make decisions that are in the best interest of our family and community.
3. Ujima: (oo-GEE-mah) Collective Work and Responsibility remind us of our obligation to the past, present, and future, and that we have a role to play in the community, society, and world.
4. Ujamaa (oo-JAH-mah) Cooperative economics emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support.
5. Nia (NEE-yah) Purpose encourages us to look within ourselves and to set personal goals that are beneficial to the community.
6. Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah) Creativity makes use of our creative energies to build and maintain a strong and vibrant community.
7. Imani (ee-MAH-nee) Faith focuses on honoring the best of our traditions, draws upon the best in ourselves, and helps us strive for a higher level of life for humankind, by affirming our self-worth and confidence in our ability to succeed and triumph in righteous struggle.

In fact, with these guiding principles, Blacks should come to celebrate Kwanzaa the way Jews celebrate Hanukkah.

Happy Kwanzaa !

Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian native with an international law practice in Washington, D.C. Read his columns and daily weblog at www.theipinionsjournal.com.

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