Vickie M. Oliver-Lawson
“Remembering the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa”
First fruits is what the name Kwanzaa means
It’s celebrated everywhere by kings and queens
Based on seven principles that still exist
If you check out this rhyme, you’ll get the gist
Umoja, a Swahili name for unity
Is the goal we strive for across this country
Kujichagulia means self-determination
We define ourselves, a strong creation.
Ujima or collective work and responsibility
Is how we build and maintain our own community
For if my people have a problem, then so do I
So let’s work through it together with our heads held high.
Ujamaa meaning cooperative economics is nothing new
We support and run our own stores and other businesses, too
Nia is purpose, us developing our potential
As we build our community strong to the Nth exponential
Kuumba is the creative force which lies within our call
As we leave our community much better for all
As a people, let’s move forward by extending our hand
For Imani is the faith to believe that we can.
These seven principles help to make our nation strong
If you live to these ideals, you can’t go wrong
But you must first determine your own mentality
And believe in yourself as you want you to be
And no matter how far, work hard to reach your goal
As we stand, as a people, heads up, fearless and bold.
Ms. Vickie M. Oliver-Lawson is a retired public school administrator, wife, and mother from Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. She is the author of several books, including “Vocal Moments”, “In the Quilting Tradition” and “Timeless Influences” (2009). She contributes to the Examiner news website.
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Journalist Will Jones writes:
“ Kwanzaa was created as an Afrocentric holiday in 1966 by the black-militant history professor Maulana Karenga, and was intended to be a secular cultural celebration rooted in notions of African pride and community empowerment, rather than in any long-standing religious tradition like Christmas or Hanukkah. And in its very nature, Kwanzaa seems as appealing to many as it is appalling to others. It certainly presumes a level of self-awareness and racial identity that some can find off-putting. But at the same time, many who celebrate Kwanzaa or in tandem with Christmas say the holiday is less about being counter to any other mainstream holiday, and more of a vehicle to celebrate African-American culture and a shared heritage.
Kwanzaa, which means “first fruits” in Swahili, revolves around seven core principles, each celebrated on one day of the week-long observance, with simple, often homemade gifts and feasts. Each day a red, black or green candle is lit in a Kinara in honour of each of the seven principles: Umoja, unity; Kujichagulia, self-determination; Ujima, collective work and responsibility; Ujamaa, cooperative economics; Nia, purpose; Kuumba, creativity; and Imani, faith. ”
Kwanzaa, beginning always on December 26th, lasts seven days, being completed on January 1st.
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A Swahili poem about Hospitality, based on the proverb
Mgeni siku mbili, ya tatu mpe jembe /
If a guest has stayed two days, on the third hand him a hoe
Mgeni siku ya kwanza . The first day give the guest
mpe mchele na panza . rice with flying fish
mtilie kifuani . embrace him,
mkaribishe mgeni . introduce him to your family.
Mgeni siku ya pili . The second day
mpe ziwa na samli . give him milk and butter.
mahaba yakizidia . If love can increase
mzidie mgeni. . give more to the guest.
Mgeni siku ya tatu . The third day
jumbani hamuna kitu . there is nothing left
Mna zibaba zitatu . but three bags of rice
pika ule na mgeni . boil it and eat.
Mgeni siku ya nne . The fourth day
mpe jembe akalime . give him a hoe to farm.
Akirudi muagane . When he comes back say
enda kwao mgeni . Goodbye, go home, dear guest.
Mgeni siku ya tano . The fifth day
mwembamba kama sindano . the guest is needle-thin
Hauishi musengenyano . He does not listen to advice,
asengenyao mgeni . the guest is well warned.
Mgeni siku ya sita . The sixth day,
mkila mkajificha . hide in a corner
mwingine vipembeni . while you eat,
afichwaye yeye mgeni . out of sight from the guest.
Mgeni siku ana ya sabaa . The seventh day
si mgeni a na baa . a guest now is a monster
Hatta moto mapaani . and has put fire
akatia yeye mgeni. . to the roof.
Mgeni siku ya nane . The eighth day
njo ndani tuonane . the guest comes in to greet us.
Atapotokea nje . When he comes outside
tuagane mgeni . we take leave.
Mgeni siku ya kenda . The ninth day:
enenda mwana kwenenda! . go now, son, go now
Usirudi nyuma . and don’t come back
usirudi mgeni . don’t return, oh guest.
Mgeni siku ya kumi . The tenth day, chase him away,
kwa mateke na magumi . with kicks and blows.
Hapana afukuzwaye . There is no other such a one
yeye mgeni. . who is chased away this way.
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Hospitality poem: courtesy of Albert Scheven and Dr. Peter Ojiambo, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Swahili or Kiswahili is a Bantu language of East Africa spoken by various ethnic groups in several contiguous states. Fewer than 10 million people speak Swahili as their mother tongue but more than 60 million use it as a ‘ lingua franca ‘ for commerce and transnational communication. It is an official language in five countries: Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Written Swahili once used the Arabic script but now the Latin alphabet is standard. There have been many Swahili dialects; modern Swahili is based on the dialect used in Mji Mkongwe (the name of the old-town quarter in Zanzibar City, Zanzibar, Tanzania).
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