Reflections on things to come

As 2011 closes, I look back to realize I’ve had a tumultuous but blessed year. I’m still working a lot of things out, but as I attempt to dive deeper, I hope to discover and come to terms with some of the unanswered questions that still hover.

To that end, I am taking a deeper plunge (or sticking my toe in–we’ll see which) into my faith and spirituality. My new blog, Practicing Christian, goes online tomorrow. My goal is to post something everyday (an unofficial Project 365, I suppose), whether it’s a devotion, ramble, rant or other comment that crosses my mind. That one will be 100% deep, so if you prefer the irreverence and snark, the Princess will still be rolling. But if you dare to take the journey with me, I’ll save a seat for you on the ride.

PracticingChristian.wordpress.com

Habari Gani? KUUMBA! (Creativity)

On this sixth day of Kwanzaa, we celebrate and reflect on Kuumba [koo-OOM-bah] (creativity).

KUUMBA (creativity)

To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

The sixth day of Kwanzaa celebrates Kuumba, the ability we all have to put our imaginations to work, to make our ideas a reality, even to make our dreams come true, for the good of ourselves and our society.

Kuumba
“Using our creative mind”; dreaming big and making those dreams real.

My grandmother would always tell me to “use my creative mind”—always proud of the paper plate turkeys at Thanksgiving and the made-up stories and the dance performances that I (or any other grandchild) would bring to her. She was a big believer in allowing us to dream big….and kids can be the biggest dreamers. How many times have you heard a kid dreaming of being an astronaut or the President or a ballerina or a movie star–or anything else they imaginations can come up with? At that age, the difference is they don’t know the meaning of the word “impossible”; they can achieve as big as their dreams, and there are no roadblocks. As we get older (and especially into adulthood) we run into walls and stops and find out how much hard work it takes to get those big dreams, all the while having others tell us that we can’t do it and we need to be practical. Inventors, entrepreneurs and scientists regularly think outside the realm of possibility and come up with inventions and innovations that improve our quality of life. Encouraging that in our community not only contributes to the betterment of the world at large, but serves as an example to those little boys and girls dreaming big–letting them know that the impossible IS possible if you put forth the effort.

Habari Gani? NIA! (Purpose)

On this fifth day of Kwanzaa, we celebrate and reflect on Nia [NEE-ah] (purpose).

NIA (purpose)

To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Nia, the theme of Kwanzaa’s fifth day, encourages us to set personal goals. Recognizing how our own goals fit into those of our family and community, and understanding the purpose behind our actions, helps us to reach those goals.

Nia
Setting out a game plan and making strides toward our own personal goals, which in turn lends to uplifting our community’s goals.

Too many of us wander around aimlessly, with no target to shoot for—just coasting through life to the next day. Some don’t even know there’s a choice to aim for something higher and better than what they currently have, or how to go about achieving such an aim. Finding Nia can be compared to some degree to the concept of the New Year’s resolution—one makes some promises and sets some lofty goals to accomplish in the New Year. But while there’s nothing wrong with starting small, the purpose associated with Nia should lend itself to a larger end goal, a greater good. Resolving to quit smoking will put money back into your pocket and put you on the road to improved health, but what would happen if you took that goal and reached out to a community health organization, working to help others take care of their health or comfort those with lung cancer? What could happen from someone vowing to eat healthier and exercise organizing a community health class or helping with a food bank or soup kitchen? Thinking bigger than yourself, creating a small ripple in a big pond, paying it forward—whatever name you give it, it is purpose in action for the benefit of all.

Habari Gani? UJAMAA! (Cooperative Economics)

On this fourth day of Kwanzaa, we celebrate and reflect on Ujamaa [oo-JAH-mah] (cooperative economics).

UJAMAA (cooperative economics)

To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and the profit from them together.

Ujamaa emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support. Together, we can use our joint resources to do the many things yet undone that will protect and improve the lives of our families and our community.

Ujamaa
Combining our resources and supporting our merchants, craftsmen and artisans.

Before integration, there was a thriving culture of black enterprise born out of sheer necessity—in order to get certain goods and services denied us, we had to form our own companies and sell to our own community members. Now in this age of superstores and mass-production, we have all gone for the cheaper deal over quality merchandise and community merchant support. With the exception of hair care and restaurants, we have been increasingly less supportive of our own community businesses. While it’s a bit impractical to expect a full-scale abandonment of Wal-Mart, we can devote more of our dollars to help merchants thrive in their businesses (and conversely, refraining from undermining said business by indulging in thievery for your own immediate profit—yes, you trifling, cowardly burglars who broke into Big Shirley’s TWICE, I’m talking to YOU….). How much more difficult is it really to find a merchant with something you need that lives, works in and contributes to your immediate community? This is one principle that seems hardest to embrace–but it may be the beginning to our renewed prosperity and economic power.

President and Mrs. Obama Issue a Statement about Kwanzaa

(courtesy YourBlackWorld.com )

Straight from the White House:
Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Kwanzaa this holiday season. Today marks the beginning of the week-long celebration honoring African American heritage and culture through the seven principles of Kwanzaa — unity, self determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

We celebrate Kwanzaa at a time when many African Americans and all Americans reflect on our many blessings and memories over the past year and our aspirations for the year to come. And even as there is much to be thankful for, we know that there are still too many Americans going through enormous challenges and trying to make ends meet. But we also know that in the spirit of unity, or Umoja, we can overcome those challenges together.

As families across America and around the world light the red, black, and green candles of the Kinara this week, our family sends our well wishes and blessings for a happy and healthy new year.

Habari Gani? UJIMA! (Collective Work & Responsibility)

On this third day of Kwanzaa, we celebrate and reflect on Ujima [oo-GEE-mah] (collective work and responsibility).

UJIMA (collective work and responsibility)

To build and maintain our community together and make our sisters’ and brothers’ problems our problems and to solve them together.

The third day of Kwanzaa gives recognition to Ujima: the idea that, by working together and taking responsibility for our own actions and those around us, we honor our forefathers and insure our own well-being and that of our children.

Ujima
Furthering the “village”—if not us, who? If not now, when?

We ALL have to pitch in. The America Dream, as achieved by immigrants, was not the result of charity. Though I’m sure along the way, some people have gotten a break or some gift to help push them along; the lion’s share of their dream-building came from sacrifice and hard work. And if there was help offered, it would more than likely come from others in the same community of people pooling their resources to help each other build. Having our own store of resources to draw from in order to take care of ourselves and our children is the key to helping all of us advance and have a better life, from generation to generation.

Habari Gani? KUJICHAGULIA! (Self-Determination)

On this second day of Kwanzaa, we celebrate and reflect on Kujichagulia [KOO-gee-cha-goo-LEE-ah] (self-determination).

KUGICHAGULIA (self-determination)

To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves instead of being defined, named, created for, and spoken for by others.

Kujichagulia requires that we define our common interests. Like our ancestors, we must be independent, strong-willed and in charge of our own destiny as individuals, as families and as a united community. Self-Determination is celebrated on the second day of the festival.

Kujichagulia
Pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps despite the challenges and obstacles and determining a better path for all of us; our self-image vs. our stereotypes and assumed pre-judgments.

There is not one Black person I know that doesn’t see a news story about an arrest or a criminal charge and doesn’t pray, “Lord, don’t let that be a black person,” whether silently or audibly. I recently had a non-Black friend implore Black people in his Facebook status not to fight and pepper spray each other over the newly released Air Jordans–and for the life of me, I had no argument. I certainly would have liked to, as I know it’s not just Black folks acting crazy on Black Friday and other big sales event pushes. But as far as the news coverage went, I can’t say I saw one pale face in the consumer crowd. WE ARE BETTER THAN THAT. Even though we are often portrayed in a selfish, materialistic, irresponsible light, I know we have more common sense than to actually fight over a pair of shoes that cost about 1/10 the price you’re paying to create. Ours is an image pulled up for a variety of negative pictures, whether exception or rule, and we have the power to change how others see us. We have to start being our own PR agents—the sooner we see OURSELVES in a better light, the sooner we can work for our collective common good and have others see us in that better light, as well.

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