Celebrating Kwanzaa 2011 – Begin with Unity

As we close out the calendar year 2011 and look forward to 2012, join me on a journey through the Kwanzaa principles from now through January 1. The first principles, celebrated on December 26th, is Umoja - or Unity. The principle states that we - all of us - should strive for and maintain unity in our families, communities, nation, and race. It sounds simple enough, yes? The actual manifestation of Unity can be a bit tougher, however.

Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga to introduce and reinforce seven basic values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing family, community and culture among African American people as well as Africans throughout the world African community. I believe that the values expressed through the observance of Kwanzaa cross cultural, race and societal barriers, hence my inclusion of the holiday here in my blog.

The foundational values celebrated and expressed during Kwanzaa are called the Nguzo Saba which in Swahili means the Seven Principles. Developed by Dr. Karenga, the Nguzo Saba stand at the heart of the origin and meaning of Kwanzaa, for it is these values which are not only the building blocks for community but also serve to reinforce and enhance them.

As we close out the calendar year 2011 and look forward to 2012, join me on a journey through the Kwanzaa principles from now through January 1.

The first principles, celebrated on December 26th, is Umoja – or Unity. The principle states that we – all of us – should strive for and maintain unity in our families, communities, nation, and race. It sounds simple enough, yes? The actual manifestation of Unity can be a bit tougher, however.

Unity does NOT mean that we all have to believe the same thing, speak the same words, eat the same foods or even wear the same clothes. It does mean that we should look for ways in which we can honor and help each other – with an overall goal being that of maintaining a harmonious environment for all. 

In our families, this might take the form of working toward healthier self-esteem and self-confidence as the year closes. Perhaps we will not all reach a higher level of self-esteem by being told how wonderful we are, but for some, reinforcing positive words can be the key to a healthier self-image. Eating healthier is key for EVERYONE – no one is perfect, and we can all do better in our pursuit of nutrition and fuel. Try to incorporate ONE healthy eating tip each week and practice it consistently until it becomes a habit. Remember what I always say – Baby Steps forward are STILL steps forward!

Unity in our community can take many forms – avoiding polarizing issues is not the way to solve them, however, when you give respectful time for others’ opinions to be heard and do not let the differences of opinion that occur descend into name-calling and character assassination, you are moving toward Unity. Even if those you are discussing challenges with do not agree on the ways to SOLVE that challenge, the fact that you both see there IS a challenge is a great way to start the search for solutions. Don’t be so “hard over” on thinking your way is the ONLY way, and Unity in problem-solving will be much easier to find.

For our nation – I would wish that Unity could be expressed in much less finger-pointing and accusing others of bias, and more working together to solve the problems that affect us ALL. I wish that our elected officials could be united in problem solving and not as concerned about who gets credit (or blame). In this upcoming election year, I will be looking for, and supporting candidates that not only promote Unity, but have a track record of achieving it!

How can you practice and encourage Unity in your own family, community, and the nation? Comment below and let me know how you will strive for greater Unity in the days to come. Tomorrow’s Kwanzaa principle: Kujichagulia – Self-Determination.