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African American History Month: In All Our Glory

February 1, 2016
African American History Month: In All Our Glory

As we approach the second half of the decade of the 21st century, some voices among our people have raised the issue of the relevance and need for African American History Month, reasoning that we are all Americans. Put aside for the moment the question of what is an American and what is American citizenship, the necessity of African American History Month is grounded in our exclusion from American history. Thus, African American History Month is an acknowledgement of our omission and a corrective for the exclusion, distortion, and marginalization of African Americans in the history of America.

So, first, a history lesson on the origins of African American History Month. The precursor to African American History Month was created in 1926 in the United States, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.”Woodson chose February for reasons of tradition and reform. It is commonly said that Woodson selected February to encompass the birthdays of two great Americans who played a prominent role in shaping black history, namely Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, whose birthdays are the 12th and the 14th, respectively. More importantly, he chose them for reasons of tradition.  Since Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, the black community, along with other Republicans, had been celebrating the fallen President’s birthday. And since the late 1890s, black communities across the country had been celebrating Douglass’. Well aware of the pre-existing celebrations, Woodson built Negro History Week around traditional days of commemorating the black past.  He was asking the public to extend their study of black history, not to create a new tradition.

To be sure, Woodson was up to something more than building on tradition. Without saying so, he aimed to reform it from the study of two great men to a great race.  Though he admired both men, Woodson had never been fond of the celebrations held in their honor. He railed against the “ignorant spellbinders” who addressed large, convivial gatherings and displayed their lack of knowledge about the men and their contributions to history.  More importantly, Woodson believed that history was made by the people, not simply or primarily by great men.  He envisioned the study and celebration of the African Americans as a race, not simply as the producers of a great man. And Lincoln, however great, had not freed African Americans—the Union Army, including hundreds of thousands of black soldiers and sailors, had done that. Rather than focusing on two men, the black community, he believed, should focus on the countless black men and women who had contributed to the advance of human civilization.

The 1960s had a dramatic effect on the study and celebration of black history.  Before the decade was over, Negro History Week would be well on its way to becoming Black History Month.  The shift to a month-long celebration began even before Dr. Woodson death.  As early as 1940s, blacks in West Virginia, a state where Woodson often spoke, began to celebrate February as Negro History Month. Since the mid-1970s, every American president, Democrat and Republican, has issued proclamations endorsing the Association’s annual theme.
Hence, this is against background and history which has given rise to African American History Month. It is recognition that as a people, we have contributed something special to the world. The great education Mary McLeod Bethune at the end of her life said to us: “I want , must recognize that we the custodians as well as the heirs of a great civilization. We have given something to the world as a race and for this we are proud and fully conscious of our place in the total picture of mankind’s development.” African American History Month honors Bethune by celebrating our contribution to humanity.

Inasmuch as the larger society remains uneducated about the contributions of African Americans , the celebration of this month services a vital function for ourselves and the larger society. We have made significant contributions in all of the domains American life- science, literature, and social struggle, just to name a few. Our struggle to free ourselves was and remains a contribution to make America a more “perfect union.” People across the world have drawn inspiration and instructions from our struggle, which has become a beacon of light for those seeking freedom and an elevated human society.

Let us then put to rest that our celebration of African American History Month separates and divides us. Our American identity is still evolving and is unsettle. Yes, we are American, but a particular kind of American- Africans in America. American “Exceptionalism may very well be the recognition of Booker T Washington prophetic observation that “we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand.”


Celebrate African American History Month, an American creation, for the benefit of all Americans. 

 

 

 

Kwanzaa: The First Fruits Celebration- Imani Day

January 1, 2016
Kwanzaa: The First Fruits Celebration- Imani Day

This is the seventh day of the Kwanzaa, Imani (Faith): “Commitment, duty, and obligation to trust and believe in our people and our parents and our meet all challenges and to make progress.”

 Faith Theme: Faith is the substance and spirit which makes “tired hearts refreshed and dead hopes stir with the nearness of life; faith is the “promise of tomorrow at the close of everyday, the triumph of life in the defiance of death, and the assurance that love is sturdier than hate, right is more confident than wrong, that good is more permanent than evil.

-       Howard Thurman

 

 

 

 

 Family Ingathering Activity

Today, the family and/or friends come together to reflect on the meaning of faith within the family and community. This is a reflective day, a meditative day, a day when we turn inward to think of and discuss example, currently and historically, are the bridges that have brought us across the turbulence of slavery, Jim Crow violence, terror, and dehumanization, and the glory of Great Awakenings (New Negro Movement and the 1960s Freedom Movement) and the achievements of African Americans today.

 

Explanation of Imani

Faith is the bedrock principle. Faith, as Mary McLeod Bethune said, “is the first factor in a life devoted to service. Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible. Faith in God is the greatest power, but great, too, is faith in oneself.”  Faith has been ever present in the black experience in America. At our most unpromising moments, faith has carried us forward, making us more hopeful. The infamous The Dred Scott decision, declaring that all blacks- those enslaved as well as those who were free -were not and could never become citizens of the United States, was a cause for despair. In response to this decision, Frederick Douglass would do his customary thing: He would begin with hope in his speeches, uttering “I walk by faith and not by sight.” And, of course, the second stanza of the Black National Anthem is an ode to faith:

Stony the road we trod,
bitter the chastening rod,
felt in the day that hope unborn had died;
yet with a steady beat,
have not our weary feet,
come to the place on which our fathers sighed?
we have come over a way that with tears has been watered;
we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
where the white gleam of our star is cast.

 

Remembrance and Libation Statement

The Kwanzaa activity of pouring of libation is a spiritual and venerable act which has its roots in traditional African societies. It was done then and is done now to honor those who have gone before us. Their lives and contributions made it possible for us to live with more freedom and dignity. On Imani Day, we give deep thought and appreciation to our love ones who have departed. We remember how instructive their lives were and how even now, they inform us.

Imani Commitment

 The Imani commitment is made by each family member and is often done with the candle lighting activity. The family begins by discussing the principle –What they have done and what they will do doing the coming year to demonstrate faith in ourselves, our parents, or friends, and our people.

 

Imani Family Activity

The Imani activity is intended to reinforce the Imani principle. Therefore, the family engages or plans an activity of its choosing which highlight this principle.

Kwanzaa Karamu (The Feast)

 There is no special or mandatory food for Kwanzaa. The choice of food is strictly an individual family decision. You may choose to go out for the Kwanzaa meal, order out, or cook. The aim is to make it a special meal in the way you determine.

 

 

Kwanzaa: The First Fruits Celebration- Kuumba Day

December 31, 2015
Kwanzaa: The First Fruits Celebration- Kuumba Day

This is the sixth day of the Kwanzaa, Nia (Purpose): To d all we can to continuously improve our families and communities.”

Creativity Theme:Leaving our families, community, and world a better place to live, work, and love

The Family Ingathering Activity

Today, the family and/or friends come together to discuss ways to better the family, and/or. This is a self-conscious decision engage in ways that leave your mark on the family.

Explanation of Kuumba

The Kuumba principle demands continuous improvement both at the personal and family level. This principle pushes families and communities, adults and youth not to be satisfied with “just getting by”, with not being satisfied with being average or even above average. George Washington Carver, acclaimed scientist, teaches us all that: “No one has a right to come in to the world without leaving behind a distinct and legitimate reason for having passed though it.” Moreover, our parents and grandparents and their parents dedicated their lives and sacrificed that their children and future generations would have a better life. The Kuumba principle is instructive for all youth and adults, but in particular African American children and youth. It instructs that children and youth should never be satisfied with where they are at or what they have achieved. Even an “A” student can improve.

Significant 
Creativity Event In Black History
(Black Scientist).
 The contributions of blacks in the field of science have been a missing chapter in the narrative of America’s scientific and technological advancement.  From the beginning, African Americans were part of America’s scientific endeavors: Benjamin Banneker produced the blueprint for Washington DC; Norbert Rillieau, chemical engineer, revolutionized the sugar industry by building a refining system; Elijah McCoy whose name became synonymous with  high-quality (The Real McCoy) patented more than fifty inventions used by the railroad companies; Grandville T. Woods, invented the trolley car system and helped invent the light bulb, telegraph and telephone systems; Lewis Latimer produced the drawing for the telephone and wrote the world’s first book on electric lighting; Jan Matzeliger, revolutionized the shoe industry with the invention of the shoe lasting machine, and Garrett Morgan invented the gas mask and traffic signal. The conditions under which blacks created and invented helps to better appreciate the contributions of African American to science and the advancement of America.
Instruction: Question and Answer
Discuss the role that African Americans played in the scientific revolution of America. What lessons can be learned from these scientists. How was the intentions and of these scientist an expression of the principle Creativity.

Remembrance and Libation Statement (Optional)

The Kwanzaa activity of pouring of libation is a spiritual and venerable act which has its roots in traditional African societies. It was done then and is done now to honor those who have gone before us. Their lives and contributions made it possible for us to live with more freedom and dignity.

Kuumba Commitment

The Kuumba commitment is made by each family member and is often done with the candle lighting activity. The family begins by discussing the principle –What they have done and what they will do doing the coming year to improve the family and/or school and community.

 

Kuumba Family Activity

The Kuumba activity is intended to reinforce the Kuumba principle. Therefore, the family engages or plans an activity of its choosing which highlight this principle.

Kwanzaa Karamu (The Feast)

 There is no special or mandatory food for Kwanzaa. The choice of food is strictly an individual family decision. You may choose to go out for the Kwanzaa meal, order out, or cook. The aim is to make it a special meal in the way you determine.

 

 

 

 

 

Kwanzaa: The First Fruits Celebration- Nia Day

December 30, 2015
Kwanzaa: The First Fruits Celebration- Nia Day

 

This is the fifth day of the Kwanzaa, Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation building and development of our families and communities.”

The Family Ingathering Activity

Today, the family and/or friends come together to discuss ways for the family, and/or friends and community can contribute to the noble purpose of nation-building. Nation-building, the grand strategy to organize African Americans into a self-conscious social force with the capacity to advance and defend the interest of black people, to restore them to builders of civilizations, begins in the family. The African proverb says: “The ruin of the nation begins in the home;” however, conversely, the revival of a nation begin in the family. Hence, the principle Nia or Purpose is instructive for the task of nation-building.


Explanation of Nia


 
African Americans are an African people, forcibly brought to the United States of America from numerous ethnic groups in Africa. After 1865, the end of the Civil War, set about trying to construct our lives from the ashes of slavery. It was, however, in the opening decades of the 20th century that African Americans self-consciously decided that they were “instruments of history-making and race-building.” As documented by Alain Locke in his ground-breaking book, The New Negro, toward the task of nation-building, African American intellectuals and artist at the dawn of the 1920s were “actors and creators in the special occurrence of the birth” of African Americans as a people. This, the first of the Great Cultural Awakening, catapulted black people to the world stage where they became aware of their historical task of making their mark on human civilization. Marcus Garvey exhorted, “Up you mighty people, you can accomplish what you will.” And even prior to this Anna Julia Cooper, reminded us that “the fundamental agency under God in the regeneration, the re-thinking of the race, as well as the ground work and starting point of its progress upward, must begin with the black woman.”

And too, Cooper reminds us that nation-building begins in the home: A stream cannot rise higher than its source. The atmosphere of homes is no rarer and purer and sweeter than are the mothers in those homes. A race is about a total of families. The nation is the aggregate of its homes. As the whole is sum of all its parts, so the character of the part will determine the characteristics of the whole. The task of nation-building is a historical project grounded in the Kwanzaa principle of Nia- Purpose. We achieve this by using our talents to advance African Americans, not in opposition to others, but in our self-interest.

Remembrance and Libation Statement (Optional)

 The Kwanzaa activity of pouring of libation is a spiritual and venerable act which has its roots in traditional African societies. It was done then and is done now to honor those who have gone before us. Their lives and contributions made it possible for us to live with more freedom and dignity.

Nia Commitment

The Nia commitment is made by each family member and is often done with the candle lighting activity. The family begins by discussing the principle –What they have done and what they will do doing the coming year to build and develop African Americans starting with their family and social community, ever mindful that this is a collective project

Nia Family Activity

The Nia activity is intended to reinforce the Nia principle. Therefore, the family engages or plans an activity of its choosing which highlight this principle.

Kwanzaa Karamu (The Feast)

There is no special or mandatory food for Kwanzaa. The choice of food is strictly an individual family decision. You may choose to go out for the Kwanzaa meal, order out, or cook. The aim is to make it a special meal in the way you determine.

 

 

 

 

Kwanzaa: The First Fruits Celebration- Ujamaa Day

December 29, 2015
Kwanzaa: The First Fruits Celebration- Ujamaa Day

 

This is the fourth day of the Kwanzaa, Ujamaa or Cooperative Economics Day: “To build and develop investments and revenue sharing projects collectively and to profit from them together.”

 

 

 

The Ingathering Activity

Today, the family and/or friends come together to discuss ways for the family, and/or friends and community to create ways to share revenue by investing and building together the strategies and structures to make possible the sharing of revenue. The lost memory of our grandparents and their parents pooling their resources together- both labor , money, and material- troubles us today. Our great historical leaders- Richard Allen, Booker T Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, Marcus Garvey- all encourage and instructed us to invest together in our financial future. This begins with the family, investing with friends or themselves in a revenue-sharing project. Too, the family may discuss efficiency initiatives, i.e., ways to save money.

Explanation of Ujamaa

 This principle is grounded in the unselfish concern for and devotion to the material well-being of others. To be sure, this principle sets in motion a “thick set of concentric circles of obligations and responsibilities evolving round levels of relationships radiating from the biological and extended family to the wider circumference of the neighborhood and others. In our own history, we have a compelling model of cooperative economic-Negro” Baseball Leagues. We would do well to study and emulate this model.

A Model of Cooperative Economics: “Negro” Baseball Leagues

During the period of American history known as “Jim Crow,” one of the most thriving institutions in black life was the Black Baseball Leagues. The leagues were among the largest black businesses in the United States. The roots of black baseball’s organizational structure coincided with the rise of mutual aid societies in the 1840s. Mutual aid societies were essential in conjunction with the church, in forming the nucleus for the modern black community.

What is fascinating and instructive about the formation of the “Negro Leagues” was that they had to operate their “established segregated enterprise within the fabric of a national economy. As Michael E. Lomax notes: Black baseball magnates utilized a business concept know as cooperative enterprises…From the outset, early black entrepreneurs recognized that any success in developing black businesses to some sense of stability could occur through economic cooperation. Thus, the consolidation of resources became a means to establish black enterprises.” To be sure, the Black Baseball Leagues serve as a compelling and instructive model of cooperative economics.

 

 

 

 

 

Remembrance and Libation Statement (Optional)

 

The Kwanzaa activity of pouring of libation is a spiritual and venerable act which has its roots in traditional African societies. It was done then and is done now to honor those who have gone before us. Their lives and contributions made it possible for us to live with more freedom and dignity.

Candle Lighting Activity

Each day of Kwanzaa, the family lights one of the candles, which represents one of days and principles of Kwanzaa. On Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics Day, we light the red candle. The red candle is symbolic of struggle or effort and work. Remember Fredrick Douglass’s Statement on struggle: If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

Ujamaa Commitment

The Ujamaa commitment is made by each family member and is often done with the candle lighting activity. The family begins by discussing the principle Ujamaa- how doing the year each member has contributed to this principle and by what means will they will observe the Ujamaa principle the following year.

Umoja Family Activity

The Ujamaa activity is intended to reinforce the Ujamaa principle. Therefore, the family engages or plans an activity of its choosing which underscores this principle. Note that it can be a small gesture. The key here is to plant the seed of revenue-sharing and then following through during the year.

Kwanzaa Karamu (The Feast)

There is no special or mandatory food for Kwanzaa. The choice of food is strictly an individual family decision. You may choose to go out for the Kwanzaa meal, order out, or cook. The aim is to make it a special meal in the way you determine.

 

 

 

Kwanzaa The First Fruits Celebration Ujima Day

December 28, 2015
Kwanzaa The First Fruits Celebration Ujima Day



Today is the third day of Kwanzaa, a celebration of the principle Ujima, Collective Work and Responsibility: “The mutual responsibility to care for and assist each other in times of need, and to support each other’s aspirations and life’s goals.

The Ingathering

 On Ujima Day, the family ingathering centers on mutual aid and responsibility which family members have to each other. Family members recount the support they have received from family, friends and the community in general. It is important that parents stress and highlight examples of mutual aid, explaining that we all need each other and that the strength of the family is in the bonds of its relationships

Explanation of Ujima

 Historically, African American families have developed and thrived because of their reliance of each other and the community. The core meaning and practice of Ujma is the care and concern for others, an understanding that “I am because we are, and because we are, I am.” We exist, we achieve, and we flourish because of the support and sacrifice of others. In their sunset years, we care for our parents and grandparents because they cared for us when we were born and needed help. Mutual aid and responsibility serves as social insurance that in times of need, we will never be on our own. This is the principle which made possible the Underground Railroad, the African American Southern extended family, the Black Baseball Leagues, the formation and flourishing of black businesses, and the building and support of the traditional black colleges. To be sure, this principle hold the key to the progress of black people- excellence in education, family development, and black children thriving.

Remembrance

We remember and raised the names of our parents, grandparents and other loved ones who were part of the greatest generations. We also remember of loved ones who have recently passed. Their spirit guards us and guides us to in the path of righteousness.

Candle Lighting Activity

 Each day of Kwanzaa, the family lights one of the candles, which represents one of days and principles of Kwanzaa. On Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility Day, we light the green candle. The green candle is symbolic of progress and prosperity. The lighting of this candle provides powerful lesson: Progress and prosperity (the green candle) for children and adults is dependent on effort and work (the red candle). Hence, we asked our children and youth, how much effort and work (red candle) are they willing to invest in your life and future.

Ujima Commitment

 In the context of the ingathering activity, family members evaluates what they have done to practice the Ujima principle, and commit to practicing this principle in the following year.

Ujima Family Activity

The Ujima activity is intended to reinforce the Ujima principle. Therefore, the family engages in a     collective activity of its choosing

Kwanzaa Karamu (The Feast)

 There is no special or mandatory food for Kwanzaa. The choice of food is strictly an individual family decision. You may choose to go out for the Kwanzaa meal, order out, or cook. The aim is to make it a special meal in the way you determine.

 

 

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