In a song he hasn’t released yet, Pyinfamous references the super woke. I mean, I know y’all mean well, but we know meaning well is what paves the road to hell, right? Don’t. Well, make sure you know what you’re talking about before you start talking. Don’t be like me and defend Charlie Rose before knowing the whole story. Who would’ve thought that old man … That’s neither here nor there. But yeah … I did that, so you don’t have to.
What’s all this about? See I know some of y’all so woke y’all didn’t celebrate the white man’s Christmas, so you can celebrate the Black Christmas, Kwanzaa. Here are three reminders about Kwanzaa (you did at least know it had the double “a,” didn’t you?).
- Kwanzaa is not Black Christmas. It’s not a religious holiday. It’s not an African tradition. It’s an exercise in cultural nationalism. It’s about identifying our own things to celebrate. One can celebrate both Christmas and Kwanzaa, one or the other or neither. Celebrating it or not isn’t an indicator of anything other than you celebrate Kwanzaa.
- The Nguzo Saba is not just about Kwanzaa. Really, it’s politically grounded thought. I believe if our focus were the Nguzo Saba, our community would be very different. What are Nguzo Saba? The seven principles of Kwanzaa Mulana Karenga developed. They’re ideas central to improving our collective (read: Black first) condition.
- And the thing most of us know: Kwanzaa is seven days, and each day has a theme. UKUUNKI (“you-kay-you-you-in-kay-eye”). That’s how I remember them in order. I still confuse them, though. SMH.
Umoja (Unity) is striving for and maintaining unity in our families and communities.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) is naming, creating and defining for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) is building and maintaining our communities together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) is building and maintaining our own businesses so we may all profit.
Nia (Purpose) is making our collective vocation the building and developing of our communities.
Kuumba (Creativity) is doing everything we can to leave our communities more beautiful and beneficial than what we inherited.
Imani (Faith) is believing in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
A community absent unity can’t stand together. A community absent self-determination is defined by its oppressor. A community absent collective work and responsibility abandons the least among them. A community absent cooperative economics doesn’t and cannot invest in itself. A community absent purpose discards itself, its value. A community absent creativity cannot find a way for all to exist full and whole. A community absent faith … in something is dead.
Sadly, these are the conditions of Black women and girls. As we craft new year’s resolutions to better ourselves, maybe in that hope for a new year, we resolve to create space and time for Black women and girls to exercise their self-determination. As we resolve to do these things for Black people, we’d do well to remember our girls and women are Black too (which we sometimes forget).
Kwanzaa isn’t about typical, tangible gifts. It’s about us, what we are, and where we say we want to go collectively. In fact, it’s kind of the exact opposite of the commercialized, capitalistic aspects of Christmas. Kwanzaa, when done correctly, should be both a look back and a look ahead. It makes me think of a lyric in “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us /
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
This lyric brings to mine the story of the Sankofa bird and the importance of our past in our future. Kwanzaa should be a time for reflecting and planning. A time to celebrate our successes and learning from our failures. A real holiday for us and for our community. Hmph. Well, maybe Kwanzaa could be a Black Christmas …