As Kwanzaa approaches and celebrations serve as reunions with a cultural flair, it also serves as an opportunity to review the principles and create ways to implement and practice them at home and in the community from January through December. It serves as an opportunity to make a commitment to youth, represented among the Kwanzaa symbols as ears of muhindi (corn), the kernels symbols of future generations.
While we were born into most holidays, Kwanzaa has provided a rare opportunity to study, question and practice its concepts while the architects are alive. We must be vigilant in preserving and practicing the principles. While the obvious enemy is commercialism, less obvious is the failure to understand that Kwanzaa seeks to celebrate, reinforce and commit to the day-to-day practice of the principles. In order to reap a harvest, seeds must be planted and nurtured throughout the year. Otherwise Kwanzaa, with all its ethnic splendor, will join the domain of other holidays – becoming yet another occasion for retail shopping. We acknowledge adults who sow seeds with youth and applaud those youth who are setting goals and accomplishing them. We also have an obligation to the large number of youth who, with Ujima (collective work and responsibility), will improve their chances for success. Young people must acquire the skills for the workplace. Many reach middle and high school lacking basic reading skills, becoming fodder for prisons. We (the village) are responsible for these young people.
Kwanzaa should serve as a time to renew our commitment to youth; to move from resignation to regeneration; to recognize areas of dependency and grow self-reliance. We begin by acknowledging the need for adults to demonstrate self-reliance which starts with the individual and creates community. Children learn what they live and while learning begins at home, interactions within the community (school, etc) contributes to their experience.
While the principles of Kwanzaa are generally interpreted and approached from an organizational or group framework, the Notebook’s goal is preparing individuals to live the principles by having each child (and adult) discover their individual innate intelligences, making choices that increase self-esteem, engage in activities that stimulate more than those that bore and making the home a safe, inspirational, special place for creating Umoja (maintaining unity with self). Our message to parents is, “The world that our children and their children will inherit is in dire need of a transformation and the transformation of a nation begins in the homes of its people.” In keeping with that message and in appreciation of the contribution that Maulana has given our people, the Parents Notebook introduces its 21- day Umoja Project, where parent and child select something they want to change. The project allows parent and child to view the issue as partners rather than opponents and demonstrate the benefits and rewards of Umoja and Ujima.
With rising numbers of our youth in prisons, killing or being killed and subjected to other forms of abuse and neglect, Kwanzaa should serve as a time to renew our commitment to our youth; to move from resignation to regeneration. This year’s Kwanzaa celebrations could include committing to specific projects with one or more young people during the upcoming year. When we hold high expectations of our youth, we teach them to have a vision for themselves. The results produced during the year are the crops we bring to next year’s Kwanzaa festivity whether at home, church, block association or school. A Kwanzaa assignment for adults is to find a way to show a youth that he or she is appreciated during 2013. For more information on the “21-day Umoja Project” (free to OTP readers) contact
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for listings of Black colleges and listing of scholarships and other services available to minority students.
***The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program selects 1,000 talented minority students to receive a good-through-graduation scholarship to use at any college or university of their choice. The program provides personal and professional development through leadership programs along with academic support throughout their college career and is administered by the United Negro College Fund. The 2013 application is completely online at
www.gmsp.org and deadline for submission is January 16, 2013.