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Monday

7 Whole Days of Holiday Blogging: Umoja




Habari Gani?!?

For you newbies, that means "What's the news?" The appropriate response would be the principle for the day & then to ask what's the news as well. It looks like this: "Umoja, Habari Gani?" It's a lil call & response--you know--the African way. On your block it looks a lil like:
What's happenin, Man?
Ain't nothin. Y'all good over there?
Yeah, fam. Solid.
You know...depending on the age of the participants in the conversation. I'll skip the translation for my own generation (& younger) since it might not sound all positive, & Kwanzaa ain't nothin' but positivity.

So, in case you missed the implied message, today's principle, principle moja (1 in Swahili), is Umoja. Umoja means unity. & who doesn't need some of that? The official principle broken down means to
Strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

I know you don't mess with Kwanzaa cuz it's all bootleg to you, Christmas bargain basement & whatnot, but does that sound like a concept that doesn't work for, oh...I don't know...EVERYDAY?!?

I'm not here to proselytize, not looking for converts; I'm just tryna share.

Anywho...If you were me, when I was growing up, this afternoon or evening you would go to a common place like a school, a community center, the home of friends or family & have a candle lighting ceremony. There would be this really big kinara (candelabra to you) & there'd be 7 candles, 1 for each of the principles. We had 7 day candles that stayed lit (major fire hazard in hindsight) in my mind the whole time. I'm thinking perhaps the mamas & babas just relit it before people started showing up. #shrug Back to the memory. We'd gather at said location & libation would be poured. For those not in the know it's the equivalent of pouring out a lil likka for the dead homies. Only here, we commemorate not only Uncle John, Pookie n'nem, but prominent ancestors that have paved the way for us. Naturally you hear Brother Malcolm's name, Dr. King, & then it becomes almost a trivia addition of who studied more about Black History. Ida B. Wells & John Henrik Clarke get dropped too for the folks who read. Not sure who else you may or may not know so I won't waste time with that right now. Following libation is usually the children reciting the day's principle as the candle is being lit. Today would be the black candle in the middle. Then the mamas & babas allow the children to break down what Unity means to them before expounding on it themselves for what, in a child's mind, felt like FOR. EVER. RAH.

Discussion done & the drumming & dancing would start. If you don't know 'bout African drum & dance & how rousing it is, then you haven't lived. Seriously. In the TwoZeroOneTwo, you need to #gitchusome post & haste. The children from whatever independent schools are around or hosting would put on plays & skits all related to Unity & Kwanzaa in general. Everybody loves watching the babies do their thing & there's nothing more precious than precocious 3, 4, & 5 year olds dressed in red, black, & green, or kente from 2 lifetimes ago stumbling over their lines in a play they co-wrote with their teacher. Really! It's great stuff. Then the teens come out & do a dance they learned from the local African dance troupe & the sons & daughters of the folks who everyone knows can dance upstage the other unfortunate babies who've been given time steps to keep from messing up the choreo. Somebody will then sing an original song & challenge the audience to NOT get up & take a bathroom break in the middle of it. Why? Because we must strive to endure the song together. Umoja, people. People like me fight hard to keep from laughing out loud. In these days, of the Smart Phone, I would busy myself tweeting about how ridiculous the song is. But it's not because it's a Kwanzaa song but because NONE of us have the patience for untested, unproduced, raw, unconfirmed talent without an exit strategy. American Idol, anyone?

If you're at someone's home there'll be some food & we get to do what we love to do--break bread. After the meal the adults get into heated discussions about Pan Africanism...OR, they play cards & turn the music up. The kids are downstairs or in another room or off away from the adults talkin trash (in the ways we've learned from our parents) & playing games. Around 1 or 2 a.m. parents pack drowsy or sleeping kids up & drag them home. Then we get up refreshed & prepared to do it all over again. 7 days of practicing purpose, 7 days of living the 7 principles of the Nguzo Saba out loud, & 7 days of discussing how you will continue to live those principles in the coming year. Affirmations.

To my friends who celebrate Christmas (only), we have no trees & no tinsel. There are no neighborhood lights contests & no carolers. However, we do have the spirit of community that extends beyond family, & for 7 whole days (no Toni Braxton, again) we celebrate the fruits of our labor in the past year & prepare to do it better in the coming year through the sharing of ideas & love. It's not religious, but it does have a value system. We are not heathens. We are not bootleggers, & in the end, we party harder than you.

Sorry...summa y'all ride our backs so hard I had to stick my tongue out at you for a second.

Again, not trying to convert, just trying to share the spirit (which doesn't include that last comment).

Stay tuned tomorrow where you'll learn all about day 2, the 2nd principle, & the hardest to pronounce. Lemme get you started now.

Kujichagulia (koo-gee-cha-goo-lee-yah)
So tomorrow when I say "Habari Gani?" you'll say.....? Ok, see you then.

Watch me move.

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