The Role of Celebrating Kwanzaa became significant in my family as our ideals, from Umoja to Imani, were reflected in the ideas of this cultural celebration, and those values aided me as I raised my Black son.
When my son was in elementary school, I had many happy memories of the holidays. We would be sipping hot cocoa and decorating the tree to the sounds of Motown holiday oldies. He went to an all-Black private school with a community of other young men like him. Our single child was able to find a group of boys who became like brothers to him, and it was truly a miracle. They were like brothers in that they would spend all seven days of the week together doing things like playing sports, riding in the same cars, and taking trips together.
Lucky for me, I met two other moms, Charlie and Nefertiti, who wanted the same thing I did: to help our sons grow up with a strong sense of identity rooted in their heritage. For Black History Month, we started having enjoyable family Kwanzaa celebrations. The official Kwanzaa website states that the holiday’s goal is to “deliver a cultural message that speaks to the finest of what it is to be African and human in the broadest sense,” and it is observed from December 26 to January 1. When compared to other winter holidays, such as Christmas and Hanukkah, Kwanzaa places less emphasis on religious observances and more on celebrating African American heritage, solidarity, and family. And now, I can look back and see how those get-togethers shaped my kid into the person he is.
The events were planned to establish a custom that the children would carry on with their own families in the future. At the Kwanzaa celebration, each youngster chose one of the seven principles—Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Labor and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economy), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith)—to focus on and express in an entertaining way. We shared food and drink, made new friends, and then settled in for the evening’s main event: the presentations.
A number of the youngsters dressed in traditional African garb, while the rest sported the red, black, and green of the Kwanzaa celebration. When our son was younger, my husband and I worked with him to find information on his principle, explain its significance, and discuss ways in which we could incorporate it into our lives the next year. It was nice to see the youngsters’ enthusiasm as we applauded their artwork. These notes became significant guidelines that aided in our children’s development, so don’t discount their significance.
For the fourth year, he has chosen Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), which entails establishing and operating mutually beneficial companies such as supermarkets and shops. We vowed to patronize as many Black-owned establishments as possible. His presentations and his capacity to investigate and model the principles on his own developed throughout time.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), the third principle he chose in junior high, teaches us to work together to construct and sustain our community, to treat the issues of our brothers and sisters as if they were our own, and to find solutions to them as a group. A lot more than just the value of working together was hammered into our son that year. In addition, he honed his presenting abilities and wowed us with a PowerPoint presentation complete with music, visuals, and a Q&A session. He promised to stick up for his pals and issued a 52-week financial challenge to them.
The year was great because he finally realized the importance of conserving money. He challenged my husband and me to be more frugal, and that’s just one way that the lessons he learned on Kwanzaa helped our family.
Our yearly get-togethers taught my son and the other kids in the neighborhood much more than just how to have fun together. One year, a family’s recounting of their trip to Ghana kept the youngsters enthralled. The experience made me want to see the world and learn more about Africa. Our youngster grew in his understanding of the value of putting his faith in others. At the end of each celebration, one of the dads would lead a prayer circle wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year.
Finally, via our festivities, our son is learning to keep going with the traditions of the family even when things are uncertain. In order to continue the holiday despite the epidemic, we held a Kwanzaa Zoom party with live music, Kahoot activities, and condensed speeches so that everyone could still feel like they were part of the event.
These days, my son is taller than me. Because of their various schedules, it’s tough for the young men in his crew to hang out together. Yet, I am confident that my son has gained something priceless from our prior festivities. I was taken aback when he stated how much he missed our Kwanzaa gatherings as we dug out the decorations this year. When I asked him why he said that our history and culture were fascinating to him. For me, this was a deeply moving moment of realization that the change we had hoped to bring about would stay forever had we been successful.
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