Habari gani – umoja: What’s the news? Unity.

unityThis is the first night of Kwanzaa, a holiday created in 1968 by Malauna Ron Karenga in response to the Watts riots. He developed Kwanzaa as a way to bring positive meaning to a negative situation. Since its inception in 1968, millions of Americans of African decent have embraced this holiday and its principles.

It is not a religious holiday, it is a spiritual holiday. It is a time for reflection and understanding. Although developed for African-Americans, all people can adopt the principles to live better lives. I will share each of these principles with you.

We decorate our homes in red (blood and struggle), black (unity and people), and green (growth and hope.) We display these colors on a bandera ya taifa, the flag of Kwanzaa.

We also prepare a Kwanzaa table to display the other symbols of the holiday. A mkeka (straw mat) forms the foundation of the decorations, upon which we place muhindi (corn) to represent the children of the house. Households with no children still display muhindi because we are all responsible for the future generations. We also fill the kikombe cha umoja (cup of unity) with water to represent purity.

The most important decoration is the kinara(candle-holder) containing a black candle in the center, three red and three green candles. Each candle represents a principle of the day.

We greet one another during the holiday with kwanzaa yenu iwe nahari (happy Kwanzaa) or, more commonly habari gani (What’s the news) and respond to the greeting with the principle of the day.

Lighting the first candle

Tonight we light the first candle; the black candle that represents unity and people.

No one should celebrate Umoja alone. Invite those who live alone to share this celebration with you.

Fill the kikombe cha umoja (cup of unity) with water to represent purity. After lighting the black candle in the center of the kinara all guest should shout harambee (let’s stick together.)

The oldest guest should give a toast then each guest should then take a sip from the kikombe cha umoja.

You may wish to exchange your zwandi  as you discuss the principle of unity.

The principle of umoja (unity)

During the dark days of slavery and the subsequent discrimination that followed, our people used the principle of umoja for survival. Although we had little, we shared what little we had. We somehow managed to always have enough.

Sticking together means building on the strengths of the individuals in the group. Sticking together makes the entire group stronger – a force to be reckoned with. A single strand of steel has no strength, but when braided together it can hold an entire bridge. We must braid together as a community in order to remain strong.

Just as a rusty strand will weaken the entire bridge, a parasite weakens the entire community. You must never take without giving more. We all have a contribution to make and we must each contribute before any of us can reap the benefits of the harvest.

Umoja is a principle of individual responsibility. We each have the responsibility to our homes, our families and our communities. We are each a brick in the structure. Take on your personal responsibility. Contribute to the community as a whole and it will grow tall and strong as a skyscraper.

My umoja resolutions

  • I will pull my own weight as well as the weight of those who are unable to pull their own.
  • I will not weaken my community by enabling those who are unwilling to pull their own weight.
  • I will continue to be a role model for the children in the community to ensure a strong future.
  • I will continue to pursue knowledge and share this knowledge with my community.

What will you do for unity?

Harambee.

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  3. Very informative post, Saundra!! Happy Kwanzaa!!

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      The principles of Kwanzaa actually originated from the seven principles of Kwaida, a way of living your life. My family has celebrated Kwanzaa since my children were very small and this year we had the pleasure of spending part of Kwanzaa with our grandson and passing on the traditions.

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