This is the Swahili phrase which means ‘How are you?’ and is used as the daily greeting for Kwanzaa!
Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration of Black identity that honours African heritage and Black culture. Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26th to January 1st and often culminates in a feast and gift giving.
Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairperson of Africana Studies at California State University, in response to the Watts Riots in Los Angeles of 1965. Dr. Karenga intended for Kwanzaa to be a way to unite and bring African Americans together as one community. Dr. Karenga built the foundation of Kwanzaa upon traditional knowledge in Africa, combining aspects of several different celebrations from the Ashanti to the Zulu. The name Kwanzaa itself is rooted in the Swahili phrase which means first fruits, or first harvest.
Seven guiding principles were used as the themes which are to be discussed during the Kwanzaa celebration, each being given a day of dedication. For example, Umoja or unity is celebrated on December 26th and is intended to help us contemplate how to maintain unity within the family, community, and nation. These 7 principles are intended to collectively build and reinforce Black culture within the Black community.
To kick things off, last weekend we hosted Kwanzaa Live from Adinkra Farm with Ginelle Skerritt! Trust us, you’ll want to watch it! If you missed it be sure to check it out here https://fb.watch/2sj-KZa-zO/. For more information about Adinkra Farm and how to support visit https://adinkrafarm.wordpress.com/.
This month, we have dedicated our entire newsletter to the principles of Kwanzaa and their application within our community. Please enjoy and from our family and community here at UPlift Black, we wish you and your families and communities a very safe and Happy Kwanzaa!
In this edition of the UPlift Black Voices Newsletter Kwanzaa Special Edition you’ll read about the 7 Principles of Kwanzaa and Book Recommendations!
Umoja - Unity
The Kwanzaa principle of Umoja, or unity, as mentioned above, is meant to remind us to strive for and maintain unity within the community, it is about the people. Umoja is contemplated and celebrated on December 26th.
When I think of unity within the community, what I think of is uplifting those who are the most marginalized in the community. Our community cannot function as a solid unit if we do not uplift those who have been marginalized. What is really empowering about the movement that we are seeing for Black lives is that this time around we are including everyone. To have entire protests surrounding the idea that #BlackTransLivesMatter is something that would not have happened in the 1960s. Our trans brothers and sisters who are Black are some of the most oppressed in our society.
What is really cool is that we are now coming to truly understand that as a society we are only as strong as our most vulnerable. Black trans women continue to face discrimination in many areas of life, including employment, housing, violence, police brutality, and health care. For example, a Black trans woman died in Toronto police custody last month. While this is true, a lot of the narrative around Black trans women entails violence and brutality, as well as short lifespans.
So while it is incredibly important to hold a place in our hearts and minds for the Black trans women who has died because of discrimination and brutality, it is also important to uplift those Black trans women who are still alive and still with us today. Celebrate what our Black trans siblings bring to our understanding of humanity.
“We’re only as relevant as the next sad story. What makes it even worse is when our deaths are used for clicks instead of as a means to be genuinely concerned for the trans community, and to actually care about those of us who are still here. We’re more than our deaths, and we’re more than a tragic story.” – Intersex author Vanessa Clark
“Give us nuanced obituaries, but also ask for our opinions on things that matter to us and to everyday people. We are three-dimensional humans just like everyone else.” – Trans activist and writer Serena Sonoma
Use December 26th to contemplate how we can be unified in the fight of equity of all humans. How can we UPlift our most marginalized to create a better, more unified society for all?
Kujichagulia - Self Determination
Kujichagulia, self-determination, is the second principle of Kwanzaa celebrated on December 27th. This principle is about how we decide for and define ourselves by ourselves for ourselves. Identify, purpose, who we are, what we do or create is determined by us. We speak for ourselves.
We are no longer allowing others to speak for us. We are no longer allowing others to tell our stories, to write our history. WE will be doing the telling and the writing ourselves, like we always have been doing. We will share our narrative, our perspective, our experience. We will wear our hair in its natural texture or however creatively we decide to do with whatever hair we put on our head. If it’s on our head, it’s our hair that you will not touch. We will be loud. We will be proud. And you better believe most certainly we will be BLACK. You are beautiful in every shade, in every body with every identity. You are free to be all the glory that is you, speak your truth, walk your path and express the magic that is you. Be YOU, decided by you.
Don’t be fooled by your age, the poem below is for us all.
Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins, 1974
Hey Black Child,
Do you know who you are?
Who you really are?
Do you know you can be
What you want to be?
If you try to be what you can be.
Hey Black Child,
Do you know where you’re going?
Where you’re really going?
Do you know you can learn
What you want to learn?
If you try to learn
What you can learn?
Hey Black Child,
Do you know you are strong?
I mean really strong?
Do you know you can do
What you want to do?
If you try to do
What you can do?
Hey Black Child,
Be what you can be
Learn what you must learn
Do what you can do
And tomorrow your nation will be what you want it to be
Ujima - Collective Work and Responsibility
Day 3 of Kwanzaa is about building a strong community together and maintaining it, making our siblings problems our problems too. Ujima, or Collective Work and Responsibility, is observed on December 28th.
Let’s take this principle and extend it. In the Umoja section, we discussed how being united means to uplift those of our community who are the most marginalized. Ujima makes the struggles of others into the struggles of ourselves. Your problems are also mine to help solve.
To help solve problems, we need to be educated in the issues. Here is a collection of books, appropriate for teens and young adults (although, I would and have absolutely read these), that highlight some of the issues within the community, with many of these books proposing important solutions to the problems. To purchase go here. If we work together, educate each other, and care for each other, we can create the world we envision where everyone has true and meaningful opportunity.
This Is What I Know by Kimberly Drew
Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon
Imaginary Borders by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez
The New Queer Conscience by Adam Eli
Taking On the Plastics Crisis by Hannah Testa
Concrete Kids by Amyra León
Continuum by Chella Man
Skate For Your Life by Leo Baker
Ujamaa - Cooperative Economics
December 29th, day 4 of Kwanzaa brings us the principle Ujamaa, cooperative economics. This is about building and maintaining our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together. It’s about spending and keeping within the Black community for it to grow and be sustained.
#buyblack #shopblack #supportblackownedbusniesses #loveonlocal #buildourcommunityup
Black Owned Business Feature: Mexhico Restaurant
Located at 37 Dunlop St W, Barrie, ON. For more information visit their website www.mexhico.ca/
A message from co-owner Jessica Weir
Mexhico Restaurant was created with the intention of fulfilling the need of a casual restaurant in the Simcoe area where plant-based enthusiasts could enjoy a full menu of food and drinks with peace of mind.
Our menu is a wonderful offer of authentic Mexican dishes made with 100% plant-based ingredients.
We officially opened our doors on September 16th, 2020 and in our short time we have a good clientele of both vegans and omnivores who absolutely love our food.
Our Mission Statement is “To nurture the soul and spirit with delicious food and unparalleled service in a clean, welcoming, and stylish environment with an always upbeat atmosphere”. The feedback of our patrons assures us that we are on track with our mission statement and core values.
Some of our most popular authentic dishes include Huarache, tacos de Barbacoa, tacos al Pastor and Street Corn. Less authentic but equally popular and delicious are the Stuffed Burger and Loaded fries. Our portions are very generous, and most appetizers are great for parties of 3 and above.
The restaurant is owned by two mainly immigrant families passionate about business and good food.
Nia - Purpose
Day 5 celebrated on December 30th, brings us the principle of Nia, purpose. This day is dedicated to contemplating what each of our purpose is, what is our gift to humanity, all creatures and the land we live on? Your passion, your purpose should help build and develop our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
We all came here for a reason, for a purpose. We all have gifts inside of us only we can give to the world. Some of us never lose our knowing, some of us get shaken off the path, and some of us are still in the muck of white supremacy and colonization. Everyone must embark on their own journey of self-exploration, discovery and radical self-love. This is your rite of passage. There are many ways to find your purpose (time alone, books, journaling, travel, nature, guidance from elders or ancestors, etc.) and everyone’s journey will look different. If you do it right you’ll discover the endless possibilities and things still to learn. What gets you out of bed in the morning? What do you need? Does your community, the world need that too? How can you contribute?
This journey will involve continuously learning and unlearning. It will be confronting, challenging and sometimes just plain hard. The only way to the other side is through it. Make healing a priority. Make rest a priority. Make joy a priority. Make nourishment a priority. Make self-care a priority. Make radical self-love a priority. Make yourself a priority. Make love a priority. Make being you and all that is you a priority.
Your purpose is within you ready to be discovered, will you go on the journey?
Shine brightly in all that you are.
Kuumba - Creativity
Kuumba, or creativity, is the guiding principle for the penultimate day of Kwanzaa, taking place on December 31st. What we contemplate on this day is how we can make the world more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. It’s also about the creative ways we problem solve, critically think, create opportunities, start movements, businesses or organizations and express ourselves through art.
UPlift Black is the living embodiment of this principle. It was born from a desire and need to UPlift the spirits and morale of our Black youth. We heard the call to action loud and clear. We came together to create a safe, welcoming, inclusive space and community for ALL Black people and anyone who (continuously + actively puts in the work) wants to be a part of change. We were incorporated on July 15th 2020 while in the midst of our Youth Care Package project, that delivered over 240 care packages!! We may have started with a Youth project, however let us make it clear: UPlift Black is here to UPlift ALL Black people living in Simcoe Muskoka. From the beginning we told you were here to UPlift, that
- We will increase the visibility of Black people living in Canada through arts, media and storytelling.
- We will provide mentorship to Black organizations, individuals, businesses and youth.
- We will link with other community partners to ensure the economic and social development of Black people living in Simcoe/Muskoka.
- We will create events and programming to highlight the diverse cultural experience of Black people living in Canada.
We’re just getting started and need your help to continue. Have you watched our web series yet? Subscribe to our Youtube Channel UPlift Black to catch up and watch all 6 episodes, then share them. Share the newsletters, our website, anything we do. Support us through donations, buying our merch, and other fundraising initiatives. Show UP for us, for Black people, for the marginalized people in your life you love. We are only getting started, let’s keep the momentum going. Share. Support. Show UP!
Enjoy the videos below.
Spoken Word – Why I Celebrate Kwanzaa
Decorating/Hosting – Dressing a Kwanzaa Table
Song – Happy Kwanzaa Song
Rap/Poetry – Imani (7th day of Kwanzaa)
Imani - Faith
The final day of Kwanzaa is celebrated on January 1st. The principle of Imani, faith, is about believing with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle. We couldn’t think of a better or more fitting person and organization within our community to talk further on this principle.
A message from Lisa Ogbole, Executive Director of Imani’s Place
As a survivor of domestic violence, what kept me going was my faith in God. As the one person that was supposed to protect me was the same one abusing me; what that did to me was remove every iota of trust for humans in my mind and place my trust in the sovereign Lord because only him could see my pain. At Imanis place We strive to live up to the simple truth that is with faith,all things are possible. You can be healed if you believe, you will make it if you believe it. Belief in yourself is the most empowering tool that can take you to your next level.
Seeing the result of engaging my faith to work for me; I wanted to pass this same wisdom to women who have encountered gender based violence. So I looked up the word faith in swahili language just to give the word faith a unique feel and that is how we came to be known as Imani’s Place.
I would like to use this medium to wish the amazing uplift black Team a very merry christmas. We also say a big thank you to all supporters of Imani’s Place – We see you and are nothing without you.
“A Safe Haven To End Domestic Violence And Human Trafficking Against Women”
To read more about Imani’s Place and how to help, visit their website above and read the articles below.
Looking for reading related specifically to Kwanzaa? Check out these titles for further learning!
- Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story By Angela Shelf Medearis and Daniel Minter
- My First Kwanzaa By Karen Katz
- The Story of Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington
- Kwanzaa by Joanna Ponto and Carol Gnojewski
- Kwanzaa: an African American Celebration of Culture and Cooking by Eric V. Copage
- The Complete Kwanzaa: Celebrating our Cultural Harvest by Dorothy Winbush Riley
- Guess Who’s Coming to Karamu by Cy Blanca
- Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture by Dr. Maulana Karenga
- Kwanzaa in Hawaii by Ayin M. Adams