My family and I have been celebrating Kwanzaa for 11 years as of this year. In 2003, I decided my family was going to have our first Kwanzaa after researching the cultural celebration for two years.
It was important for me. Growing up, I didn't feel connected to my black roots and had to find my own way. I wanted my children to always have time and space to learn about our history, culture and celebrate being part of the African Diaspora.
I wanted them to know that black history didn't start with slavery and end with the Civil Rights Movement. That we are a people with a rich history of struggles and achievements. That while we still face oppression, institutional racism and a country swimming in white-supremacist culture, we are still surviving and, yes, managing to thrive, to paraphrase a favorite quote from Dr. John A. Peoples, former Jackson State University president.
As 2014 draws to a close, I am taking time to focus on the last two principles in the Nguzo Saba, or the seven principles. Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith). Kuumba is "[t]o do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. Imani is "[t]o believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle."
I have never been a New Year's resolution kind of person. Instead, I write hopes and goals. I hope that in 2015 our Jackson community will gather collectively to use our kuumba to benefit this city. My goal is to be more engaged in helping bring voices not often heard to the table and to create spaces for empowerment and engagement for those who keep getting left out. Their kuumba counts, too.
I have so much imani in our city and our nation to do better and to be better, and a realistic view of the struggle it will take us to get there. I don't believe the city of Jackson is inherently flawed due to being a majority-black city with black leadership. What others see as our deficit can be our strength; it is up to us. Who we put our faith in will determine so much as we move forward. So will what we choose to promote and believe in.
I have imani that Jackson can became a model of what a southern city can be. We are the people who will make it happen. All of us. Mindful of the past, focused on the present and with vision for the future.
Harambee! (Let's pull together!)