Kwanzaa is a uniquely African American holiday that emerged in the mid-1960s at the height of the Black Awakening movements. These included Black Power – which spoke to self-determination and economic equality; Black is Beautiful – which addressed the importance self-love and the Black Arts Movement that celebrated African American cultural expression.
These important facets of the Black experience in American were distilled into the Seven Principles or, in Kiswahili, the Nguzo Saba. They are unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani). Each principle is the focus of one of the seven days after Christmas, culminating on New Year’s Day.
Kwanzaa is unique because it offers an African-based cultural framework to address some of the ills of the African American community and celebrate its many accomplishments. Examined with fresh eyes, Kwanzaa still offers insight and inspiration, opportunities for gratitude, generosity and family bonding, without the crass materialism and stress that has come to define the shopping season.
As the Capital City Black Film Festival team begins to shift into high gear in preparation for the 2020 festival, we are leaning on every one of the principles to make the event a success. Purpose and faith are needed simply to keep on pushing on, despite setbacks, naysayers and broken commitments. Unity, self-determination and collective work and responsibility are what keep the team together, pulling in the same direction. Each year, the festival intentionally hires as many Black-owned businesses as we can, exemplifying the principle of cooperative economics and, of course, creativity abounds.
If you are looking for an entertaining way to celebrate Kwanzaa in the spirit of the season, consider steeping yourself in some of the best Black independent films. From comedy to drama, action to romcom, Blacks have made a huge cultural impact through film. Each day consider having a dinnertime conversation with friends or family about the meaning of the principles, how you see them played out every day, and commit to living them more fully in the coming year.
As for gifts, if you have a few extra dollars, giving books, movies, artwork or any handiwork by Black artists and artisans expresses the essence of the holiday. But there is nothing more precious – especially in this age of digital delirium – than the gift of your undivided attention and positive encouragement.