Kwanzaa is a unique African-American festival that focuses on the traditional African values of family, community responsibility, commerce and self-improvement. The name Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means "first fruits." The festival, celebrated from December 26 to January 1, is based on the Nguzo Saba (seven guiding principles), and each day of the celebration focuses on one of the principles (courtesy of Wikipedia):
1. Umoja (oo-MO-jah) Unity stresses the importance of togetherness for the family and the community, which is reflected in the African saying, "I am We" or "I am because We are."
2. Kujichagulia(koo-gee-cha-goo-LEE-yah) Self-Determination requires that we define our common interests and make decisions that are in the best interest of our family and community.
3. Ujima (oo-GEE-mah) Collective Work and Responsibility reminds us of our obligation to the past, present and future, and that we have a role to play in the community, society, and world.
4. Ujamaa (oo-JAH-mah) Cooperative economics emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support.
5. Nia (NEE-yah) Purpose encourages us to look within ourselves and to set personal goals that are beneficial to the community.
6. Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah) Creativity makes use of our creative energies to build and maintain a strong and vibrant community.
7. Imani (ee-MAH-nee) Faith focuses on honoring the best of our traditions, draws upon the best in ourselves, and helps us strive for a higher level of life for humankind, by affirming our self-worth and confidence in our ability to succeed and triumph in righteous struggle.
By the way, Habari Gani? is Swahili for "What's the News?" That's the question that Kwanzaa celebrants ask during each day of the festival. And each day, the question is answered with one of the guiding principles. On the first day, the question is asked: "Habari Gani?" And the answer is "Umoja." And so on, for each of the seven days.
Even though we are not all African-American, I believe that these valuable principles can be applied and used by those of us who struggle daily to achieve and maintain sobriety, and to overcome our mental and emotional pain. Take some time to reflect on these principles and what they mean, and how you can use them to reconnect with yourself and with others. Then ask yourself "Habari Gani?"
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