KWANZAA: A Oneness
By William Larsha, Sr.*
Senior Columnist and Political Analyst
The Mid-South Tribune and The Black Information Highway
(Published December 2003)
“Why is there ‘oneness’ in America
for African people, yet no Oneness
‘of’ African people in America”
“To COME TOGETHER
To GROW TOGETHER”
THROUGH KWANZAA, COALESCE
Since African people of America are facing a new century, Kwanzaa, more than ever now, should be recognized as a Messiah of African Americans. Kwanzaa, when understood is a co-existence pattern of thought. It recognizes who African people were and are. As the founder, Dr. Maulana Karenga so profoundly puts it, “The concept of Kwanzaa, the African American Holiday, is to help Blacks to relate to the past in order to understand the present and deal with the future.”
In this country, African people exist in a predicament. Predicament here means a situation wherein African American people, continuously, are deliberately being restrained and suppressed and therefore systematically denied access to economic and political opportunities necessary to achieve real progress as an American entity, and genuine survival as an American people.
For more than two centuries African people have employed three distinct patterns of thought (philosophies) for extricating (freeing) themselves from their American predicament. These patterns of thought can be identified as sets of principles for guiding the behavioral practices of African people. In other words, influencing the way African people act, mainly, for freeing themselves from their American predicament.
The very first African People’s National Convention revealed these three prime philosophical persuasions: Separation-ism; integration-ism; and co-existence. Chaired by A.M.E. Bishop Richard Allen, philosophies surfaced when delegates leaning toward co-existence introduced a proposal to build a school of higher learning to prepare African people to survive and progress in the American environment – a new nation. Delegates leaning toward integration opposed the education plan in favor of a plan to encourage Black to use educational facilities already built by European Americans. Delegates leaning toward separation opposed the plan in favor of using that convention to organize emigration initiatives to Canada and Africa.
Through the years since then, advocates of each of these beliefs have continuously met in clash and conflict over which extrication plan of action is the best plan. African American thinkers have sought to justify and promote their respective plan through either an alternative analysis approach or more recently, a synthesis analysis approach.
After more than 160 years, neither plan has led African American people out of their predicament. We find African people today almost the same people as we were when we arrived on this continent: biologically the same, but sociologically different – a formation of disintegrated elements. And from this observation post, these three patterns of thought have left us practicing individualistic “I, Me” behavior instead of practicing collectively - “We, Us” behavior.
The conclusion here, therefore, is that Kwanzaa can be the answer, the solution to propel African People from their predicament. The concept, devised for African Americans, was initiated in year 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Kwanzaa is not only a week long celebration, it is a tie for coming together to express the “we” factor. It is a time, in particular, for rededication to the seven Kwanzaa principles for guiding the behavioral practices of African Americans which are necessary to achieve extrication through a synthesis analysis approach.
These principles are: (1) UMOJA (oo-Moe-Jah) meaning unity; (2) KUJICHAGULIA (Koo-jee-goo-Lee-ah) meaning self-determination; (3) UJIMA (oo-Jee-mah) meaning collectively working and responsibility; (4) UJAMAA (oo-jah-mah) meaning co-operative economics; (5) NIA (nee-ah) meaning Purpose; (6) KUUMBA (Koo-OOM-bah) meaning creativity; and (7) IMANI (eeMah-nee) meaning faith.
Both Richard Allen who lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; and Booker T. Washington who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries can be associated with the “We” factor and the synthesis analysis approach to achieve extrication. Both may be considered forerunners of the Kwanzaa thought process.
Booker T. Washington expressed Ujima (3) and Ujamaa (4) when he said “No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized.”
But in examining behavioral practices within the African American experience, the “We” factor has yet to approach maturity. This is why we ask the African American leadership, “Where is Washington’s Economic foundation, his economic prosperity, and his economic independence? And why are so many African people unaware of collectivism, yet so many aspiring to individualism, and thus demeaning the religious credo, “Be My Brothers’ Keeper?”
Historically, two factors have prevented African Americans from achieving togetherness, solidarity, oneness: (1) belief in “integration-ism” or belief in “separation-ism” (petitioning); and (2), lack of belief in co-existence. “1” favors the alternative analysis approach: which means African people will accept either integration, or either separation. “2” favors the synthesis analysis approach: which means taking the most promising initiatives from both integrationists and separationists plans and cultivating those plans into a “oneness” plan, (the only plan) so as to achieve togetherness, and therefore extrication from their American predicament.
NEW RACE OF PEOPLE
We African people arrived on this land from many parts of continental Africa – speaking many different languages; worshipping in many different religions, adhering to many different customs, and paying allegiances to many kinds of existences: by name, tribal existences, national existences, and territorial existences.
By the time the American constitution had been adopted in the closing years of the 1700’s, African people were speaking a new language; worshipping for the most part in a new religion; adhering to new sets of customs; and paying allegiances to new kinds of existences: the existence of the commerce masters in the north, and the existence of the slave masters in the south.
Even then, African people were not one people. Some were free countrymen. Some were slave property. Never had they been one people. By then, their minds had been mostly reshaped by European patterns of thought (religious beliefs), mainly idealism, realism or some forms of pragmatism. Their minds had been conditioned to behavior that would, for the most part, rely either on dependency (depending on somebody), on independency (depending on self) or on interdependency.The mentality feeding on independency led to the philosophy of separation-ism (realism in nature), and also to the mentality that led to the human rights movement as expressed in the American Declaration of independence. The mentality feeding on dependency led to what is now seen as integration-ism (idealism in nature) and to the civil rights movement as expressed in Christian ideals. And lastly, the mentality feeding on interdependency led to what can be associated with co-existence (pragmatism in nature) – and the U.S. “republic rights movement.
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