It is the festival with the Swahili word that means “first,” as in the first returns of the harvest. It is a time for much rejoicing, thanksgiving and a celebrating of our “Africanness,” our African heritage, culture and values. We’re talking about Kwanzaa, that celebration that begins December 26 and runs right through until January 1. It was founded by Maulana Karenga, a leading African American professor of African studies, and initially marked in 1966. Of course, notwithstanding the fact that it began in the United States, it is a celebration for all persons in the African diaspora – be it in the Caribbean, Brazil and Latin American, and Europe – a Pan African celebration, if you will.
Not surprisingly, in much the same way that we are warned not to miss the true meaning of Christmas (God sending His Son for our redemption), we are also cautioned, amid the gift-giving and feasting of Kwanzaa, not to miss its true meaning – that a successful harvest requires unity of effort and purpose. Betterment of Antigua and Barbuda requires that unity as well. Indeed, in just about every human endeavour, the results will be mixed or a downright failure if people work at cross-purposes. Exhibit A? The astonishingly dismal reconstruction effort in Barbuda! Some 15 long months after Hurricane Irma all the stakeholders in Barbuda remain hopelessly divided. They are all speaking a different language as to their vision for Barbuda and how to achieve it. We submit that the confusion spoken about in the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel is child’s play when compared with the utter chaos and inertia born out of strife and division in Codrington. Clearly we need an extra helping of the first principle (there are seven principles all told) of Kwanzaa – unity or umoja. (See King Short Shirt’s UNITY and Calypso Joe’s HOUSE DIVIDED).
Then there is the second principle – kugichagulia or self-determination. In too many ways, never mind our much-vaunted political independence, we are still beholden to external forces – political, economic, military, geography, psychological and so on and so forth. We are still shackled by the Big Powers, and our ability to chart our own destiny is stymied. Many of us are also still chained by the inner demons that prevent us from being the persons that we really want to be. Our demons control us, and they prevent us from reaching our true and full potential. In 2019, more self-determination ought to be the watchword and song!
So too a double portion of the third and fourth principles – ujima, collective work and responsibility, and ujamaa, cooperative economics. Seems, Kwanzaa is big on people “Pulling together and not to pieces!” (King Short Shirt) We submit that the motto that appeared on the masthead of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union newspaper back in the seventies, “The unity of labour is the salvation of our country,” is still applicable today, perhaps now more than ever.
Meanwhile, we like the fifth principle of Kwanzaa – nia or purpose. Too many of us, especially our young, are lost, adrift in a sea of hopelessness and despair. It is incumbent on us, the elders, to provide as much direction and encouragement as possible to our young. We must help them find their niche and that sense of purpose! In fact, the sixth principle of Kwanzaa – kuumba or creativity, is especially applicable to our young people, because it is from within them that the inner genius will emerge to provide solutions to the problems that beset us as a people. More power to the youth – may they ever blossom and flourish!
Last, but by no means least, there is the imani or faith. One of our exhortations here at Observer Media is that Antiguans and Barbudans, “Keep the faith!” And it’s “faith” in every sense of the word! Be true to your calling! Hold fast to the profession of your faith in the Almighty! Be faithful and true to your principles and to those with whom you have found common cause!
Seems, with “a little more Kwanzaa up in here,” 2019 can be a bright, happy and productive year for all Antiguans and Barbudans. It is our fervent prayer. It is for this reason that we are supporting a series of Kwanzaa lectures and other cultural events at the fisheries complex near the West Bus Station. These activities are under the auspices of the Organisation of African Caribbean Unity and they begin at 7:00 p.m. each evening. We submit that they will be well worth your while.