Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa Empower

December 26, 2013

Looking forward…


As we begin another year of life physical form, it’s good to center on some principles that are non-denominational and can apply to spirits of any belief system.

Unity-Umoja (oo-MOH-jah): This is the first principle of Kwanzaa and rather than restate information that is more fully covered at this Kwanzaa website -, I offer a “quick and dirty” definition that Kwanzaa is an African American tradition founded on an east African concept of Harvesting of the First Fruits.

Simply, Unity for me means intending to come together always rather than giving energy to any kind of separation. Practicing a principle means that we work on it when it’s comfortable and we try even when Unity is challenging. For instance, in our good clean clothes, strive to see that we are in unison with the homeless, drug addicted, the gun-shooters, because they, like us, were created in the image and likeness of the Creator.

 Kujichagulia-is the 2nd principle of Kwanzaa - Kujichagulia (koo-jee-chah-goo-LEE-ah): Self-Determination. I have always taken that to mean independence. Personal responsibility for my actions and their accompanying reactions.  Setting goals for myself outside of the expectations of others and being consistent in propelling myself toward the finish line. It’s persisting through the long haul.

Ujima-the 3rd principle of Kwanzaa - Ujima (oo-JEE-mah): Collective work and responsibility.
I love it when a group of people can work together around a plan, each taking responsibility for holding up their “end” and catching any balls that seem to be dropping, whether they are yours or not. This is commitment to a collective agenda!  Ujima is team play, whether it’s in a family committed to helping on another achieve their goals, or a productive work team, hardI-working faith team or an effective block club. If one reflects on the meaning of, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” you can probably find examples of Ujima in your life. Let’s work more collectively in 2014!

Ujamaa-This represents the 4th principle of Kwanzaa - Ujamaa (oo-jah-MAH): Collective economics.
This principal that speaks to as a community of consumers, supporting with our dollars, institutions that value and support and appreciate us! According to Nielsen Research African Americans spend annually, and yet, corporations that we support don’t recognize that power by spending with our African American owned agencies and businesses. Money can bring power when used with the intention of the empowerment of our community. Once we have knowledge we also have responsibility to ACT.

Nia- 5th principle of Kwanzaa - Nia (NEE-ah) is Purpose. Whoami and Whyamihere? This principal speaks to having a greater reason for your life than existence and the production of off-spring. When we reflect on the lives of people that we revere; our spiritual leaders, and heroes, we can see that we value, and in some instances worship them for who they were and what they did. I submit that some of us are purposed by our Creator to be way-showers and others are purposed to follow the way they are being shown. Personally, I don’t believe any soul was given existence to be worshiped, but I do believe some souls were sent to lead by pointing us in a direction that we should follow.  Purpose is about finding out who you are and why you were given life and then searching for what are purposed to DO to earn our space on the planet, “pressing toward the higher call.”

Kuumba- This represents the 6th principle of Kwanzaa - Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah): Creativity. Thinking about how to use each and every situation, adversity, and blessing and encounter to make your life and the lives of others better. Creating beauty with our words, as we speak possibility over situations that appear less than ideal.

Faith - This represents the 7th principle of Kwanzaa - Imani (ee-MAH-nee): Faith. Such a magnificent and personal principle. Faith to me means that despite the “appearance” of a situation on the News, on a health test, in a community, in a relationship, faith demands that we see everything as the Creator sees it, perfect, whole and complete, always affirming the best outcome for situations. We have to exercise and “flex” our faith muscles so that we weaken fear. We acknowledge that whatever we give our attention to multiplies. So if we feel weakened in a situation we AFFIRM our power because in affirming power and dominion we are calling forth from the Universe that which we want to give value to!
This does not mean we ignore a physician's health prescription or the guidance toward financial prudence, but that we use FAITH while DOING all we can to move ourselves to a better place.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Clever Disguises

I was speaking with an old friend today; a friend that I have known since I was an idealistic twenty-something. We had been through the end of the 60’s, the hopeful 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and onto a new millennium. This morning, while a downpour kept me from weeding my garden, we reflected upon the fact that nothing has changed…not really and that sometimes the labels we give things change but we need to look more deeply into the TRUTH of what they are.

For instance, I lived in Liberia, West Africa for 11 years and escaped during the early months of the tragic Liberian Civil War. People call that heroic, I certainly didn’t feel hero-ish. What I felt like was a person responding in the best way possible to protect my family. And while that experience, at least on the surface, seemed unique at the time; I don’t see what happens in West Africa and South Africa worlds apart from the happenings on the West Side and the South Side of Chicago.

Is there really a difference between the disregard for the development of “ethnic” human capital in Liberia and colonial South Africa to what is happening to youth in Chicago, particularly on the South and West Sides? HOW can the crime rate be at its lowest in 14 years according the superintendent of police, while residents of the South and West Sides of the city live in constant fear? That not only points to, it screams, at something deep and systemic that needs addressing. More police can’t fix this.

By systemic I mean, the school system, the social services system, the system of state, county, city government and the criminal 'just us' system need fixing. I would submit that what is happening on the West and South Sides of Chicago (and elsewhere among people of darker hues and lower class) are really cups of “the same soup being poured deceptively into different bowls.”


What I have decided to DO is:
1. to snitch on anyone hurting my community that I’m aware of
2. to continue to inspire and educate my older children and to support them in raising my grands
3. to work with others that want to reclaim the south side community that I call home
4. to help the young men that live nearest to me to find a better path forward

Perhaps crime will continue to rise (on the South and West Sides of the City), and perhaps our children will continue to be fed into the system of slavery that is cleverly disguised as the criminal “justice” system. But at least I will be able to rest my head on my pillow at night knowing that I DID what I felt capable of DOING.

For every person that reads this post, I would challenge you to look into your life and decide not what you can say, but what you are willing to DO.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Leap Forward...Alone!

The idea for this blog entry stems from a text I got from one of my daughters last night asking simply, “Can you skate?” Wise sage that I am, I saw beyond the simplicity of the inquiry to my daughter’s wish to find a fun activity and someone with which to share this activity. I responded, “yes I do skate a bit, do any of your friends skate?” The answer was “no.” Now I hear the real issue which is “Mom, there is something I think I want to try, but I’m nervous about doing it alone. Bingo! My sons each have their own hobbies. One is an inventor, and car refurbisher, the other is an accomplished body builder. But, alas, my three daughters inherited my shyness DNA. This blog is for them. Even as I approach the mid-point of my sixth decade, I totally understand the desire to have a companion, a road-dog, a sister friend, a partner, as you uncover life’s delights. Women, at least some of us, like to do things together and tend to avoid doing activities alone. Haven’t you noticed that we often go to the bathroom to tinkle, hair-comb and reapply our makeup together! However, I have learned to follow where my inner voice leads, even when I have to do it alone. The funny thing is I’ve always found friends along the way. In the 70’s as an aspiring young poet, I wanted to take writing /acting lessons and there was no peer support. I moved ahead and landed in the inaugural class of Ebony Talent Theater(renamed eTA), and in that artistic incubator, found mentors in Harold Okoro Washington, Walter Bradford, and friendship in artist/thespian and eta creative director Runako Jahai, and fellow writer Dexter Johnson. Relationships that shaped my creative life. The lynchpin for my book, Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, came from reaching out in 1980 in Liberia, to work for the Liberian National Red Cross, outside of the safety and comfort of the African Hebrew Israelite Foundation, the group through which I came to Liberia. It meant embracing the challenge of working alone in the Liberian community for over 10 years. Again, my inner voice as my north star, provided me a life enriching opportunity. Around 2004, when I wanted to take riding lessons, my friends were not interested. So off I went alone on an enchanting six lesson journey to feeling very comfortable around horses. That was not an area of mastery for me but I know that if I choose to focus on riding, I’d enjoy it. There have been many instances when no one else was interested in things I wanted to do. Somehow, even though I was reluctant, often fearful,I ventured forward alone. I’ve tried tennis, became a runner, learned to step, and even most recently, developed a passion for swimming. When I think of how uneventful and frustrating my life would have been without each one of those side trips I cringe. So to my daughter(s) and to anyone who hesitates to take a journey that their inner voice has placed in their heart, for fear of taking the journey alone, I say take a chance! Journal about that journey, savor your bravery, and finally, reflect upon the power being willing to walk a path alone brings to your life. Leap forward, even if you have to do it alone! visit my website at or purchase my book on