A Dedication Beyond Celebrations

Posted on February 1, 2011 by

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From Kwanzaa to Black History Month

From Celebrations to Dedication

By: Bro Amenseph JP Wks

 

A look at Kwanzaa



As we have gone forward from a season of holidays and celebrations and have entered into a new year, a new season or new beginnings… Many have declared to make individual resolutions of change or attempt to do different in order to better self, conditions and circumstances.

One of the year ending celebrations was that of the African American holiday of Kwanzaa. A time of dedication for seven days which commemorate seven particular principles (Unity-Self Determination-Collective work & Responsibility-Cooperative Economics-Purpose-Creativity-Faith). From Dec 26 – Jan 1, these principles along with symbols used for Kwanzaa presentations are a part of a value system that bring together the focus of individual and collective responsibility towards the progress of strengthening homes and community.

Throughout the years of the existence of this holiday, there have been many avenues of criticism about its origins and emphasis. Many people who are part of different religious faiths and various circles are uncomfortable with its existence as though it is a challenge to their faith and beliefs in God. This celebration has also been ridiculed by mainstream society, middle class America and more… If one was to do an internet search about Kwanzaa, one would more than likely come up with a lot of negative media and perspectives, even questioning whether black people still or should celebrate Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa first of all is not a religious holiday, but a cultural celebration with inherent spiritual and social qualities; it is a common ground of African culture which we all can cherish.

Even with this understanding, there is yet a great divide amongst Black/African people in general, which is spurned from a lack of knowledge of self (cultural teaching & awareness), fear and/or complacency. For many, the belief systems and schools of thought that we have been influenced by, whether by choice or by inheritance have negated to embrace anything African and only to see it as being distant, obsolete, contradictory or irrelevant. Africans in the Diaspora, those spread abroad in many lands and cultures have been disconnected from their culture of self, and to see and know themselves as a people of Africa (Africans). Unfortunately you will also find more humor and tongue lashing offered when indulging the very word of Kwanzaa and that too through ignorance is a means of diluting the very possibilities of the aims and objectives of this point of connection and time of recognition.

 

There are five initial aims of the celebration of Kwanzaa;

1. The ingathering of the people. – Bringing together the people of our families and communities for the renewing and strengthening of the bonds between them. An African Proverb states that “… the ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people”. This is a main area of focus for the rebuilding of our communities. (Family and our Homes)

2. To express reverence for the Creator and creation. – The giving of thanks and praise, as well as seeking to renew right and harmonious relationship with the divine, natural and social orders. This can be done by connecting or reconnecting to the African Centered virtues of Truth, Justice, and Righteousness … as known through MAAT; the Ancient Egyptian principles and force that communicates to man the divine principles of interdependence and connectivity to God the creator, even as we are created in that image and likeness.

3. The commemoration of the past. – The expression of reverence and respect for our worthy ancestors; to honor them, their struggles and achievements is to honor the best of what we are and can become. The Akan symbol of Sankofa means and embraces Wisdom, Knowledge and a Peoples Heritage; it also reflects that the past serves as a guide for planning the future, or the wisdom in learning from the past in building the future.

4. Recommitment to Cultural ideals. – The renewal and rededication in thought and practice to the values and principles that serve as the social glue for family and community. This becomes the basis for our self criticism, self worth and understanding, it is also what governs our tendencies and how we make decisions and respond to our environment.

5. Celebration of Good. – The celebration and recognition of the Creator, creation and life; ourselves as a people, our history and culture. This is the acknowledgment of our successes and accomplishments of goals, planning, our coming together and working together for a greater cause beyond our selves.

From these objectives one can see how Kwanzaa provides us with a point of connection to understanding what we can gain as an African people, by providing the opportunities that further the knowledge of self with the history and relevance of an African centered way of life, and for re-affirming the respect for the Creator, and each other.

Those who have embraced the celebrations of Kwanzaa have connected with the benefits of strengthening themselves and their communities through gatherings, awareness and the dedication of working together. For many, it is just another holiday or substitute for other holidays. However there is a need to go beyond the surface of what has been valued as just another holiday, but that is all too often overlooked. Many participants of the celebrations go back into their own worlds or ways of conditioning and have not truly embraced the values of the principles of Kwanzaa. For some, the seven day celebration of Kwanzaa and then the passive attempts towards making personal resolutions are at most times just emotional responses and misdirected energies, needlessly becoming added personal failures and shortcomings.

 

Embracing Black History Month


With only a month separating yet another lengthy time of commemoration of culture and history for the Black (African) people, we find ourselves in what is Black History Month. Being the shortest month of the year, February still provides the most consecutive days of recognition and dedication for Black History.

While both of these holidays are American originated holidays, the world influence from them both and their recognitions to Africans and African contributions have become globally recognized and embraced in many other countries. The dedicated time for and need of Black history month is also well challenged and scrutinized. A lot of the criticism is from the same group of people as mentioned with that of Kwanzaa. One of the differences here is that this is a time more tolerated or connected to with that of the religious communities. Black history and the recognitions in the month of February tend to reflect the experiences and time period which generate from the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade to present, not making many connections to the Africans of that history or place of origin (Africa), or the ways of life that they lived.

One of the benefits of Black history month is that in some ways it entertains a larger audience. It is embraced by the national public school systems, it has a National platform of recognition and its recognitions become active parts of the services and agendas of religious institutions, organizations and more… Celebrated during this time are more detailed records of individual characters, their lives, their accomplishments, their struggles, along with personal and sometimes family records and somewhat traceable lineages. There are even a more direct means of connecting with a variety of causes, contributions, the faces and images of black people that have influenced us and many of the things that they have done that have challenged some of our thoughts and ideals that we have today.

Black History month has provided a connection to a more closely related and identifiable past. It becomes a connecting point that gives a recognition and identity to a people, their lives, their struggles and progressions even while living within another’s system, culture and influence. While there has been a great psychological disconnect from the African way of life and culture, not all was lost. Some of those things that we are able to connect with have come from the self determination, creativity and faith in self that still resided within. We have been able to connect to the struggles to overcome the wrongs, the mis-treatments, the degradations and the lies placed upon us as an African people. We have seen the gathering of individuals and the structuring of groups that stood up against the ongoing oppressions. It has brought us to a place in history that demanded the claims of civil and human rights and more…

 

Still is that enough?

The reason for asking “still is that enough?”, is to bring into perspective the current state of Black/African mindset; the state and condition of our homes and communities across this country of the U.S. and as seen in other countries around the world and in Africa. Amidst the exposure of education, religion, and wealth, opportunities and choice, the state of being for Blacks/Africans is a high risk status and in a place of neglect. Do these holidays, and days of commemoration really hold its weight in value as much as it is commercialized by those that embrace it? Is it really enough? Some say that it is too much time spent on the past, or even a waste of time, something that has been dying a slow death of acknowledgment, significance and purpose. Is it really enough? After all of the celebrations and recognitions much of the circumstances and conditions to and for Blacks/Africans at large remain unchanged or unchallenged. Have we brought ourselves any closer to the traditional greatness and birth-right that we should be living as a people of common-unity, or are we continuing along the paths of complacency, unwillingness and fear?

 

Some questions to consider and to ask yourself:

Am I ashamed or afraid of my African Self?

Do I believe everything that I am told About Africans?

Is my faith or what I am taught, contrary to anything African?

What are the things that have molded my perceptions of who I am?

Am I committed to the history and culture of an African centered way of life?

What African Centered community am I a part of that is supporting the Liberation of Africans?

Am I satisfied with the conditions and circumstances that I see amongst the Black/African people?

 

Many of us as individuals seek to forget our history and knowledge. We choose not to embrace it because of the anxiety from anger, fear and shame and allow these same factors to determine our lives. There are many of us who also choose to escape our identities as being Africans by telling ourselves that we must see beyond color and race… More often with this approach the outcome and reality is that of misdirection and manipulation. Our Identity of who we are is important and goes beyond the impartial history of the slave trade, the enslavement and dehumanization of Africans in the America’s. There is a much larger history of the People of Africa, their origins and their recorded contributions to the multiple degrees of knowledge, systems of learning, belief in God/Spirituality and a collective way of life and more… History is what creates the shared identity in a people, and it is based on that identity that we act as a people. Yet many of us have chosen to see and believe differently or act as those who have taught us not to see things African or look at ourselves as something else other than that.

A quote from one our teachers states; “You are not African because you’re born in Africa. You are African because Africa was born in you. It’s in your genes, your DNA, your entire biological make up. Whether you like it or not, that’s the way it is. However, if you were to embrace the truth with open arms, my, my, my … what a wonderful thing.” Dr Marimba Ani

 

Who is and what is really being addressed in this discourse? If a closer look is taken from those that are partakers, well wishers and even the criticizers, there is an underlying message and purpose that is a part of these holidays. There must be “a dedication beyond the celebrations”. There must be a dedication that connects the global Africans beyond self achievements, personal gratifications and the approvals or recognitions of the oppressors. There must be more sincere and collective resolution, one that brings together the type of interdependence that will be the response and the solution to the state and conditions that we are faced with globally.

Let us not forget, the countless atrocities that the African people had to endure, the multiple levels and degrees of trauma throughout their struggles for existence and identity in strange lands. May our declarations of change and the menial individual resolutions be extended to the dedications beyond celebrations, in our homes, communities and where our conditions and circumstances can be made better for us, and by us. This can be accomplished even if done with a portion of the energies that have been placed into the preparations and activities that have produced the types of gatherings in the Black communities for the celebrations of these holidays.

Change and Unity isn’t only in thoughts and ideals but also actions. There must be a continuance of exposing the truths, history and opportunities that will bring about correct unity, liberation, and realities of pulling together. We must bring into existence the commitment and dedications that go beyond the celebrations. It is important to go beyond the surface of just embracing the moments of these holidays and truly embrace the values, virtues, and principles that are the core of what is truly our History and Culture. What we do now is not just the respect and honor to those that have gone before us, or for the honor of self; it is what becomes the paradigms, for those that come after us, to follow after and for the structuring of their future.

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