7 Principles Kwanzaa Celebrates Self-Determination

self-appreciation HugYesterday was the first day of Kwanzaa, where we learned about the initial setup and the first principle: Unity. I imagine I would have enjoyed Kwanzaa growing up. My mother always made New Years a nice event. If we didn’t have a group of people over, we’d go over to someone’s house and spend it there. It certainly wasn’t Kwanzaa, but it did create a sense of unity with family and friends. I do wonder how a week of celebrations would fit into our schedule.

So, here we are. Day 2, celebrating the 7 principles of Kwanzaa.

The Second Day (Kujichagulia)

Self-determination is the principle for the 2nd day. On this day, you get the opportunity to light the far left red candle. The red candles represent the African American struggles. Whereas the people came first (represented by the black candle), the struggle comes second in Kwanzaa. Official Kwanzaa website says Self-determination means:

To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.

As with the first day, the activities vary. The key is to choose activities that celebrate being of African heritage.

The greeting of the day is “Habari gani?” As you may recall on the first day, habari gani means what’s the news? The response is, Kujichagulia, which means Self-Determination.

Significance to Me

From time to time, you’ll hear me proclaim that I am American. I don’t know if this is what Dr. Karenga meant when he started Kwanzaa and included the principle of self-determination. I got the impression the holiday was meant to take African Americans back to their roots of being of African descent.

When I think of myself, the name I want to call myself, how I want to be defined, it’s simply as an American. I want to be simply American, where I receive the same rights and privileges as anyone else who is called American. I want that kind of equality and freedom.

I would live to walk into the American world and see each and everyone of us respected for our deeds and not limited by a subcategory. I want to simply be American and not have it matter what color my skin is, what gender I am, what religion I practice, or whether I have sex with men or women. I just want to be American and be a productive citizen, who isn’t looked down upon. When I think about this society, I have a physical response in the center of my chest that glimmers with hope. I smile and feel a little lighter.

Throughout my website, I use African American, African-American, and Black American interchangeably. It makes me think about what I call myself, other than simply American. How do I identify myself? To be honest, I’m not overly fond of the term African American or African-American. I feel as if I’m holding onto something I never had… and that is, African roots.

businesswoman looking in mirrorWhen I look in the mirror and see me, do I need something more? How much more identity do I need to be content? Or can I simply be happy with who I am. There’s no doubt in my mind that my ancestors came from Africa, my family has never celebrated anything African in my lifetime. The artwork in our homes is non-African, though we do lean toward art that includes Black people. Really, I just embrace being American, the only culture I truly know.

If I had to categorize myself, I definitely prefer Black American to any other category. It separates me from Africa, which I don’t identify as part of my culture. I’ve talked to and worked with quite a few Africans. I love to hear their stories of home. I’m curious about what part of Africa my ancestors came from. I wonder if I could trace my lineage to a particular tribe or village, would that person be a member? But for me, it’s hard to identify as African, when other than the color of my skin, I have no firm connection.

I wonder if when Dr. Karenga talks about self-determination, if it’s as a whole or as individuals.

What are your thoughts around self-determination? How do you find ways to love yourself for who you are?