Kwanzaa Principles 365

Me: Habari Gani?

Them: Whet?

Me: Habari Gani? What’s the word, it’s Kwanzaa.

Them: Kwanzaa? Isn’t that made up?

Yes Kwanzaa is a made up holiday.  Just like EVERY. SINGLE. OTHER. holiday in existence.  There are two more things you need to know about Kwanzaa. . . .

  1. Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday not a religious one.

  2. Kwanzaa is not something that was created out of thin air.  

Please visit the Official Kwanzaa webpage or this brilliant site to learn more about what Kwanzaa is and how to celebrate. Kwanzaa is very important to me and I use it as my cooperative philosophy.  This serves two purposes. 1. Sankofa: It brings back to us ways of knowing and living that are African. 2.  It provides a blueprint for how to move forward into the future.  A community striving to live/work cooperatively needs to understand and implement  six of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The seventh principle, ujamaa, is what you are working towards.  Ujamaa means cooperative economics, but for me it stands for cooperative living. For me practicing cooperative living is practicing cooperative economics.   You will find definitions for each of the principles on the web pages I linked, however, below is the version I use as a blueprint for cooperative living/working. Please note that they are not in the same order as the celebration.

Umoja - Unity: To understand oneself as a valued member of a community that has shared interests and vision. To build honest and respectful relationships in that community.

Kujichagulia - Self-Determination: To assert agency to define oneself and how one wants to live. The agency of the community to define itself and its function.

Nia - Purpose: To understand one’s skills and talents. / To understand the shared goals of the community.

Ujima - Collective Work and Responsibility: To understand how one’s skills and talents serve the community. To hold each other accountable for our words and actions.

Kuumba - Creativity: To be innovative and take risks in planning and in action. To always be learning/trying something new.

Imana - Faith: To practice ritual as a community.  To encourage and support each other in our journies.

As a foundation, I use Kwanzaa as a guide to build cooperatives, to build curriculum, for program design, and evaluation.  My latest project was to build a birth work cooperative named Maroon Calabash.  We followed these principles over the course of a year to build our cooperative that is now  flourishing.  

Maroon Calabash started meeting in 2016 and every meeting we participated in a community building activity to get to know one another.  We did skills inventories and mapped out our networks. We created a purpose and vision we were all comfortable with.  We then placed ourselves in roles based on our strengths and what was needed by the group.  We were open minded about how we could accomplish our goals and tried new and different paths that we hadn’t thought of before.  We developed ritual and we encouraged each other daily.  We are living and working cooperatively.  

I am so proud of the work Maroon Calabash is doing, you should definitely visit our website and see what we’re up to!

Even if you don’t plan on celebrating Kwanzaa, please take a moment to learn what it is and try to internalize one of the principles. I promise it will serve you well.

Cooperatively Yours,

Cami Jean