What We Can All Take Away From Kwanzaa

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Last week we gathered at a friend's house to learn about and celebrate Hannukah. It was a great fun evening which we will be repeating. We left a little wiser about this particular celebration and with a much deeper appreciation of any holiday that emphasizes fried food (latkes and donuts) and gambling (dreidels) as part of its celebration.

It got me thinking about the other celebrations happening this time of year and how we ALL might embrace some of the messages these holidays hold as their center.

Every year those who celebrate Christmas get emotional about about "good will toward men." leading people to remark: why are these emotions only endorsed at this time of year? Why can't we work on these positive expressions all year round?

I think that is an admirable thought -though it is not easy to sustain such emotion all the time. I suspect that when a person says that, they want other people to carry that emotion; if it were simply up to someone deciding to hold goodwill toward all men all year, they could simply do it, right?

So instead of hoping that we and others can carry unreasonable emotions for a long term, how about we take a couple days and totally immerse ourselves in all the holiday spirits that are floating around now.

Which, after my brief celebration of Hannukah, led me to Kwanzaa :a non-religious, non-political reaffirmation of basic values wrapped into a celebration of the African-American life.

These values: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith are NOT values that should be limited only to African-Americans; these are principles and values that everybody can embrace. Again, they should be embraced and practiced all year -like loving our fellow human beings. But, since the challenge of this commitment is a wee too hard to contemplate, let's focus on just a week.

So why not look at these principles and see small steps we can ALL take?

  1. Meeting a friend over the holidays for coffee? Instead of heading to StarBucks or another coffee chain, find a locally owned cafe or coffee shop to meet at instead. This is cooperative economics.
  2. Thinking about a holiday gathering and anticipating friction? For just that one day, give up your expectations and simply relax into day vowing not to participate in any of the family/friend drama. That is unity.
  3. At the same time, volunteering with your family over holiday break can strengthen your ties as a family and bind you in a unique way to your community. This is collective work.
  4. Spend some time considering your New Year's Resolutions? As a family, spend some time discussing things that each of you need to commit to in order to make your family unit stronger. This is self-determination.
  5. With children home from school for up to 2 weeks, a craft day is certainly in order. Hello, creativity!

You get the picture. There are steps we are going to be taking anyway this week, why not take them with a eye to expanding understanding of another December Holiday?
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Last week, Lainad questioned whether this is a bad year to celebrate kwanzaa,

The reason why I ask this question about whether this is a good time to celebrate Kwanzaa is because of the heightened reaction about race.. . .

It is about celebration, remembering (primarily) African-American history and of course pride. What it is not about is separatism, 'bad pride' which means that the acknowledgement of one's cultural ethnicity means demeaning someone else's, and purposefully isolating one from the rest of society.

John William Templeton agrees with me: We need Kwanzaa in 2010 More Than Ever:

Each of those factors played a role in the making of history last year. We must translate that into the belief that those timeless qualities can make a difference for individuals and communities.

Our practice of those values is rusty.

Dr. Boyce Watkins wrote on BlackVoices wrote: Kwanzaa Popularity Falling? Some Say That it Is

Why not discuss Kwanzaa year round? are not concepts that should be applied once a year. They are ideas that work for the entire year. I propose that we consider renewing our commitment to the principles of Kwanzaa once a month, making Kwanzaa a deeper part of the black social infrastructure.

Debra A Stitch In Time Weight for Deb

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