Principles of Kwanzaa Can Unite Us

By Cree Noble, Team Coordinator

Last December 2021 Chicago Peace Fellow Pastor Victoria Brady and members of Big Mama Movement Chicago (a coalition which she co-founded) hosted The Black Family Reunion on the last 3 days of Kwanzaa. Big Mama Movement Chicago is a group of Black women who are calling for the unification of the Black Family. Pastor Victoria conceived the idea of hosting a global Black Family Reunion and thought, what better time to call for unity than during Kwanzaa.

Photo from Left: Yvonne Pugh, Pastor Victoria Carol Brady, Dr. Gale Frazier, Yaa Simpson

Pastor Victoria (nicknamed Pastor V.) and six other Big Mamas embarked in the planning of the celebration, realizing that the principles of Kwanzaa can be used as a powerful instrument to bring Africans and the African Diaspora together. Also realizing that people right here in the United States do not understand Kwanzaa, Pastor V. states:

"There are so many misconceptions about Kwanzaa including that it is designed to replace Christmas. This is not true. Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration of the best of Blackness; it is a cultural celebration that uplifts families and the community.” - Pastor Victoria Brady

Pastor V. is continuing the work of creating safe spaces for civic and community engagement, making peace, and bringing a greater degree of peace and unity within the Black community. With the goal of building unity in mind, she plans to conduct a series of highly engaging and innovative teach-ins/workshops to share the importance of the Nguzo Saba which are the pillars upon which the principles of Kwanzaa are built. She is preparing to share this information with leaders in the U.S.A. and in different parts of Africa who can, then share the information within their communities. Pastor Victoria’s efforts are expanding to include Peace Fellows in Chicago and across the globe. The Nguzo Saba, which are shared here, has the potential to spark lasting changes in the way that Africans and the Diaspora view itself and our sometimes fragmented relationships stemming from chatel slavery where families and communities were ripped apart.

According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Kwanzaa is a time of learning, family, and celebration...families and communities come together to share a feast, to honor the ancestors, affirm the bonds between them, and to celebrate African and African American culture. Each day they light a candle to highlight the principle of that day and to breathe meaning into the principles with various activities, such as reciting the sayings or writings of great Black thinkers and writers, reciting original poetry, African drumming, and sharing a meal of African Diaspora-inspired foods.

The table is decorated with the essential symbols of Kwanzaa, such as the Kinara (Candle Holder), Mkeka (Mat), Muhindi (corn to represent the children), Mazao (fruit to represent the harvest), and Zawadi (gifts). One might also see the colors of the Pan-African flag, red (the struggle), black (the people), and green (the future), represented throughout the physical space and in the clothing worn by participants. These colors were first proclaimed to be the colors for all people of the African Diaspora by The Honorable Marcus Garvey. The seven principles of Kwanzaa to be put into daily practice are listed here:

“The teach-ins are designed to bring a greater awareness of Kwanzaa, demystify it, and to seek ways to improve the quality of life by incorporating the seven principles into the lives of Africans and her Diaspora rooted in Umoja (Unity) and Imani (Faith)” says Pastor V.

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