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Old 12-26-2005, 10:39 AM   #1
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The "Official" FYM Kwanzaa Thread

Habari Gani, everyone!

Welcome to the first day of Kwanzaa.

I first found out about this festival of "first fruits" in 1972 as a thirteen year old searching for a more meaningful way to celebrate the REAL meanings of the Holiday Season more than just commercialism and plastic displays of the Nativity.

A friend of mine at the time (who is African-American) invited me over to his household to partake in his family's observance of Kwanzaa.

I was entranced by its beauty and its non- denominational spirituality and have since found my own way to celebrate Kwanzaa ever since.

So, in the true Spirit of the Season - when we are privileged to celebrate, Christams, Hannukkak and Kwanzaa all at the same time, I present this Kwanzaa thread to share with y'all over the next seven days different aspects of Kwanzaa and how the seven principles of Kwanzaa can have DIRECT RELEVANCE to everyone's daily lives - whether you are African-American or not. (biologically I am Caucasian)

So, let's begin.....

Here is a brief history of Kwanzaa:



Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from 26 December thru 1 January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits" in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.

The first-fruits celebrations are recorded in African history as far back as ancient Egypt and Nubia and appear in ancient and modern times in other classical African civilizations such as Ashantiland and Yorubaland. These celebrations are also found in ancient and modern times among societies as large as empires (the Zulu or kingdoms (Swaziland) or smaller societies and groups like the Matabele, Thonga and Lovedu, all of southeastern Africa. Kwanzaa builds on the five fundamental activities of Continental African "first fruit" celebrations: ingathering; reverence; commemoration; recommitment; and celebration. Kwanzaa, then, is:


a time of ingathering of the people to reaffirm the bonds between them;

a time of special reverence for the creator and creation in thanks and respect for the blessings, bountifulness and beauty of creation;

a time for commemoration of the past in pursuit of its lessons and in honor of its models of human excellence, our ancestors;

a time of recommitment to our highest cultural ideals in our ongoing effort to always bring forth the best of African cultural thought and practice; and

a time for celebration of the Good, the good of life and of existence itself, the good of family, community and culture, the good of the awesome and the ordinary, in a word the good of the divine, natural and social.



The African American Branch

Rooted in this ancient history and culture, Kwanzaa develops as a flourishing branch of the African American life and struggle as a recreated and expanded ancient tradition. Thus, it bears special characteristics only an African American holiday but also a Pan-African one, For it draws from the cultures of various African peoples, and is celebrated by millions of Africans throughout the world African community. Moreover, these various African peoples celebrate Kwanzaa because it speaks not only to African Americans in a special way, but also to Africans as a whole, in its stress on history, values, family, community and culture.

Kwanzaa was established in 1966 in the midst of the Black Freedom Movement and thus reflects its concern for cultural groundedness in thought and practice, and the unity and self-determination associated with this. It was conceived and established to serve several functions.



Reaffirming and Restoring Culture

First, Kwanzaa was created to reaffirm and restore our rootedness in African culture. It is, therefore, an expression of recovery and reconstruction of African culture which was being conducted in the general context of the Black Liberation Movement of the '60's and in the specific context of The Organization Us, the founding organization of Kwanzaa and the authoritative keeper of its tradition. Secondly, Kwanzaa was created to serve as a regular communal celebration to reaffirm and reinforce the bonds between us as a people. It was designed to be an ingathering to strengthen community and reaffirm common identity, purpose and direction as a people and a world community. Thirdly, Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce the Nguzo Saba (the Seven Principles.) These seven communitarian African values are: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). This stress on the Nguzo Saba was at the same time an emphasis on the importance of African communitarian values in general, which stress family, community and culture and speak to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. And Kwanzaa was conceived as a fundamental and important way to introduce and reinforce these values and cultivate appreciation for them.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor, Department of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, author and scholar-activist who stresses the indispensable need to preserve, continually revitalize and promote African American culture.


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'll post more later today when I speak about the Beauty of the First Principle of Kwanzaa which is

UMOJA (Unity).
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Old 12-26-2005, 11:02 AM   #2
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Thanks, Jamila, this is very informative. We have books about Kwanzaa at work but I've only gotten to take one brief peek at it.
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Old 12-26-2005, 01:07 PM   #3
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Thanks so much for your positive input, verte - I truly appreciate it.

By the end of this week, I hope that everyone who wants to have an open mind and an open heart enough to learn about kwanzaa will see how BEAUTIFUL this observance can be and how it can be an integral part of your inner life even if you're not African-American.


Asante. (thank you)
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Old 12-26-2005, 01:13 PM   #4
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hey - thank you for all of that information. i honestly had no idea what kwanzaa meant or was about, so it was nice to read this.
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Old 12-26-2005, 06:52 PM   #5
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Umoja (Unity) - ONE

We should all be familiar with the concept of Unity since Bono has been singing "We're one, but we're not the same. We get to carry each other" for nearly 15 years.

Unity means deciding to see yourself and your future as connected to the futures of others. It means that the good of the group is as important as the good of the individual. For progress to occur, there must be unity in a community.

For African-Americans, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, this principle was the overriding principle of the Movement because without unity, the community would never be able to put sufficient pressure on American society to achieve equal treatment under the law.

That was then, but what does this principle mean now?

Many people from psychologists to preachers talk about how fractured modern society is. People are separated from each other in many different ways. Many people feel disenfranchised from politics, many people feel separated from society due to their economic class (a la Katrina).

Many of us don't take the time from our busy lives to get to know our neighbors, our classmates or our fellow employees. We stay in our own little group and don't want to venture out of it.

When we don't see ourselves in other people, when we don't feel that our futures are intertwined with the futures of others, we remain disparate and alienated.

When we make the decision to unite, to see our futures intertwined with the futures of others, we make way for Peace and progress in the world.

Unity (being ONE) is the ONLY way that we can ever make our world into a brighter and better place.

So, for me, this first principle of Kwanzaa challenges me to see the face of God in everyone's face: it challenges me to find the common threads that I have with others to try to weave these into a cloak of many colors.

Unity is what Jesus speaks to all of us about in the Bible.

So, on this first day of Kwanzaa, I reaffirm the principle of Umoja and vow to do my best to unite with others for the good of all.


UMOJA - UNITY - ONE


Tomorrow - Kujichagulia (self determination)
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Old 12-27-2005, 01:50 PM   #6
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I remember, back when I was in elementary school, spending a week learning about this holiday and actually participating in some of the activities and such . It was quite the fascinating holiday to learn about, and it's nice to have this information here to refresh my memory (and to help others understand this holiday better).

A happy Kwanzaa to all those out there who celebrate it . May the holiday be a good one for you all .

Angela
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Old 12-27-2005, 07:38 PM   #7
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Thanks Angela.

Day 2 of Kwanzaa

Kujichagulia (Self Determination)


During the Civil Rights Movement, the "Black Power" movement sprung up as a way for African-Americans to find within themselves increased pride in their heritage. Phrases like "I'm Black and I'm Proud" were commonplace.

Part of this movement was a growing sense that the community needed to determine for themselves who they were and where they were going as a movement and concentrate less on the reaction from the dominant community.

OK, fine - that was then.

But how does this concept fit into my life?

Very easily.

Each one of us (no matter what our ethnic background) have a need within ourselves to direct the course of our own lives, to follow the dreams that lie within our hearts and souls.

This need for us to "actualize ourselves" is a deeply ingrained human need - the need to be an individual. To define for ourselves who we are and where we want to go in our lives without interference from others.

This isn't always easy because there are many others who want us to stay the way we are because it fulfills some need for them. But ultimately we reach the point in our lives where we have to break free and BE OURSELVES!

Determining ourselves can be a hard process and sometimes we may fumble along the way, but we should never give up the dreams that we hold on to for they are what ultimately determines the quality of our lives.

There is an ancient African proverb that I have held on tightly to all my life and it perfectly fits into a discussion on self-determination.

It goes "IT'S NOT WHAT YOU CALL ME; IT'S WHAT I ANSWER TO."

Brilliant!





tomorrow: Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibilty)
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Old 12-27-2005, 07:41 PM   #8
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I just wanted to add that we honor the unique and special human being that God made us to be when we practice the principle of Self-Determination.
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Old 12-28-2005, 08:09 PM   #9
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Day 3

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)

On the surface, this principle looks a bit complicated, but it really isn't.

Collective work and responsibility is simply putting all our efforts into the common good. For centuries, traditional African communities could only survive if everyone in the village helped out.

Everyone had a job to do in the community. Every adult watched out for the best interests of the children in the village.

Collectively, the village survived through this principle of working together and watching out for each other's best interest.


Wonderful - good for them. But how does this principle apply to us today?

In many ways.

This principle re-affirms for us that it is in being a part of something greater than ourselves (a community of some kind) that we find our greater meaning.

It is important for us to RECONNECT TO FEELING A PART OF WHAT HAPPENS AROUND US - to re-establish our sense of togetherness (of unity) with others and to make a commitment to find ways to demonstrate our caring for them.

It is very similiar to the concept behind the Zulu phrase that Bono uses during the Vertigo tour: "Ubuntu".

"Ubuntu" means something like "I am because we are". It is a recognition that in caring for others and in working with others for the common good, WE BECOME ONE.

And we're practicing Ujima.


An ancient African concept with much relevance for everyone today.


I encourage y'all to try to put this principle more into practice in your daily life.


tomorrow: Principle #4

Ujamaa (Co-operative Economics)
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Old 12-28-2005, 09:12 PM   #10
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***Happy Kwanzaa*** to all Interferencers who celebrate it !
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Old 12-28-2005, 09:26 PM   #11
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Thanks Jamila, I only heard about this the other day as someone sent me a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukkah and Happy Kwanzaa message. Had no idea what it meant then but now I do! (the things you learn on the Blue Crack!)

How many days does the festival / observance last?
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Old 12-29-2005, 12:29 AM   #12
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Quote:

How many days does the festival / observance last?
From the Wikipedia:

Quote:
Kwanzaa (Kwaanza) is a week-long secular holiday honoring African-American heritage, observed from December 26 to January 1 each year, almost exclusively by African-Americans in the United States of America, though Africans of the diaspora in many countries have begun to practice its observances as well.

Kwanzaa consists of seven days of celebration, featuring activities such as candle-lighting and pouring of libations, and culminating in a feast and gift-giving. It was founded by black nationalist Dr. Ron "Maulana" Karenga, and first celebrated from December 26, 1966, to January 1, 1967. Karenga calls Kwanzaa the African American branch of "first fruits" celebrations of classical African cultures.
So it's a week long.

Kwanzaa has always confused me because it's not really a "traditional" celebration and doesn't come from Africa. It was created in California by a former Black Panther. Also, the name is from Kiswahili, spoken in East Africa, but the people that practice Kwanzaa are of West African descent.

I think it's interesting in the context of the American civil rights movement, but I don't observe Kwanzaa b/c it's inconsistent w/ my theology. Also, I'm often worried that people accidentally attribute Kwanzaa to native Africa.
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Old 12-29-2005, 10:31 AM   #13
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Originally posted by gr@cie
Thanks Jamila, I only heard about this the other day as someone sent me a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukkah and Happy Kwanzaa message. Had no idea what it meant then but now I do! (the things you learn on the Blue Crack!)

How many days does the festival / observance last?

gr@cie, thanks for your interest in Kwanzaa.


Here is the official Kwanzaa website where you can learn more about it from its creator, Prof. Maulana Karenga:


http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/



The reason why I started this thread is for people to get to better know the principles of Kwanzaa and its deep spiritual significance which can be extended to ANYONE'S life and incorporated in anyone's spiritual values because the principles talked about in Kwanzaa are UNIVERSAL principles and are not in conflict with any other spiritual philosophy.


This holiday was created (as every holiday is created at some point in its existence) by African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement to reconnect with their African Heritage. Kwanzaa is based on certain African traditions. (I think I said all that in my inital post )


And thanks to all those who show positive interest in this observance.

Kwanzaa can enrich your inner life - if you let it.
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Old 12-29-2005, 02:14 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jamila


The reason why I started this thread is for people to get to better know the principles of Kwanzaa and its deep spiritual significance which can be extended to ANYONE'S life and incorporated in anyone's spiritual values because the principles talked about in Kwanzaa are UNIVERSAL principles and are not in conflict with any other spiritual philosophy.
uh...."self-determination" doesn't exactly fit into Protestant theology, and given the number of Protestants in the world, I would consider it significant enough to discredit the "universalism" of Kwanzaa. Key word being theology (discourse regarding the nature of God), which is very different from one's individual "spiritual philosophy".

I know Kwanzaa is based on certain traditions, but taking a little bit of this and mixing it with a little bit of that doesn't make it an authentic and traditional celebration. I could combine the Christ child with Muhammed and Gautama and call it Keekeekoo, but it's still completely arbitrary.
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Old 12-29-2005, 02:18 PM   #15
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Originally posted by LivLuvAndBootlegMusic


I know Kwanzaa is based on certain traditions, but taking a little bit of this and mixing it with a little bit of that doesn't make it an authentic and traditional celebration.
You very nearly completely destroyed the concept of Hinduism with that statement. Are you aware just the extent to which that faith is syncretic? And considering it has a billion followers and spawned Buddhism as well, I would really be loathe to suggest that the merging of theistic forms results in something that is not "authentic."
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