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Martin Luther King Prophetic Message To America

January 15, 2015
Martin Luther King Prophetic Message To America

Consistent with the 7 Principles and symbols of Kwanzaa, we present the continuing African American Breakthrough Series. Each article in the series will be linked to one of the 7 Principles or symbols. This will provide an instructive example of how the principles and symbols can be used throughout the year. We are mindful that Kwanzaa is the dedicated period in which we take inventory of our commitments and our fidelity to our history and culture. 

The Kwanzaa principle Kujichagulia (Self-determination) and the symbol Mkeka (Mat) asks us to study and be informed by our history and culture and celebrate our heroes—women and men who have made a significant contributions to our lives and history. This month, we feature Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1967 Martin Luther King posed the timely question in his final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Community or Chaos? The current state of America: perpetual war, devastating inequality, incessant violence and cruelty, and crippling racism, indifference, and neglect, merits revisiting King’s prophetic message to America.

Perpetual War

King observed that the obscene expenditure on the Vietnam War was one of the permanent features—“militarism,” of what he referred as “the triple evils,” corroding American society and threating humanity. “I knew,” he said, “I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.” And still further, in a blistering criticism, King stated:

“And don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, “You’re too arrogant! And if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power.

And, in the best of the black prophetic tradition, King issued a jeremiad on America’s excessive military expenditures: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

In light of America’s “War on Terror” and President Obama going all in on the bombing in the Muslim world, King’s prophetic message merits attention. For as As George Santayana famously said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Faith/Imani Day: Seventh Day of Kwanzaa

December 31, 2014
Faith/Imani Day: Seventh Day of Kwanzaa

A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture

Imani:The duty to trust and believe in our parents and our parents and in our capacity as family, community and a people to achieve at our highest potential.” Today is the seventh and final day of Kwanzaa. Families, friends, and communities come together on this day assess, reassess, celebrate and recommit themselves to practicing the Imani principle. 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.  We are at a critical moment in our history. All of the metrics of well-being are trending in the negative. Our families continue to be challenged by absentee fathers and wayward youth, especially, black males. And, the resurgence of racism—police and civilian killings of unarmed blacks and at the incessant images of blacks as menacing and “takers”— makes this a “faith” moment. We have to believe in ourselves, our ability to solve our social ills and to push the political class to put in place public policies, backed by resources, which support and sustain families, high performing schools, and productive adults. We can achieve this if we keep the faith.

Howard Thurman on FaithFaith 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.

Ingathering Activity: The family  cones together and lights the green candle and talk about and commit to being more  trusting  in each other in the coming year.

Putting It All Together  Review your Kwanzaa commitments and record them in a Kwanzaa journal. Commit yourself and your family to reviewing your commitments, minimally monthly, and preferably weekly.

Creativity/Kuumba Day: Sixth Day of Kwanzaa

December 31, 2014
Creativity/Kuumba Day: Sixth Day of Kwanzaa

A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture”

 Today is the sixth day of Kwanzaa, a celebration of the Kwanzaa principle Kuumba/Creativity.

Commitment, duty, and obligation to the practice of continuous improvement.” 

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


Today is the sixth day of Kwanzaa. Families, friends, and communities come together on this day assess, reassess, celebrate and recommit themselves to bettering the lives of their families, communities, and indeed the world.  The story of Lewis Latimer is marvelous example of the creativity principle. Latimer was a collaborative partner with Alexander Bell, Hiram Maxim and Thomas Edison. Bell invention of the telephone was incomplete and made possible with the drafting and drawing of the patent by Latimer. Thomas Edison invention of the light blub was inefficient, cost prohibitive, and ineffectual. Thus, it was left up to Latimer to improve upon the technology that was before him and invent the first carbon filament light bulb by combing previous manufacturing techniques with several new materials. Latimer’s light bulb was cost effective and long lasting, allowing families and businesses to live by lights. Thus, Latimer embodies the creativity principle and is a model to emulate.

Ingathering Activity: The family comes together and share memories and stories of how they have and will contribute to improving their family, school and community.

Candle Lighting Activity: On the sixth day of Kwanzaa the family lights the red candle. This candle is symbolic of struggle- continuous effort and work. The placement and order of the Kwanzaa candles teach and reinforce valuable lessons for the family. The lesson here is that we light the red candle to reinforce the value and priority we place struggle as the method for creating progress.

Karamu (Feast) and Celebration: Enjoy yourself and the delicious food; this is time for celebrate the joy of living, love among family and friends and the achievement of which have been attained throughout the year.

Nia Day

December 30, 2014
Nia Day

Happy Kwanzaa 

“A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture”

Nia Day 

Today is the fifth day of Kwanzaa, a celebration of the Kwanzaa principle Nia/Purpose.

Nia/Purpose: Commitment, duty, and obligation to contribute to the morally serious purpose and noble goal, of nation building, i.e. , the quest to recover and restore the   African American family, community, and people as a whole

Nia Theme: “Nation Building”

Today is the fifth day of Kwanzaa. Family come together to celebrate the Nia principle. Nia/Purpose principle is a call to nation building, a call to rehabilitate and restore African Americans to their traditional greatness, beginning at the level of the family. The African proverb is insightful in illuminating the centrality of the family in the nation building project, declaring: “The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people.” And, conversely, the development and elevation of the nation begins in the home. This is an affirmation that nation building begins at the smallest level, the family.

Ingathering Activity:Today we come together as family to talk about the principle Niaand how we have observed this principle in practice throughout the year.

Candle Lighting Activity

On the fifth day of Kwanzaa, the family lights the green candle. This candle is symbolic the collective prosperity . Kwanzaa commitments are made around the Purpose principle.

Ujamaa Day

December 29, 2014
Ujamaa Day

Fourth Day of Kwanzaa

Today is the fourth day of Kwanzaa, a celebration of the Kwanzaa principle Ujamaa/Cooperative Economics.

Cooperative Economics/Ujamaa: Sharing and pooling our financial resources and goods and services for the common benefit of family and community participants with the goal of building and sustaining cooperative economic enterprises.

The practice of mutual aid and sharing is a compelling example and model of cooperative economics fashioned by African Americans post-emancipation. This practice grew out of their shared understanding and ethical insight of that humans are dependent on each other and that loving, sharing, and caring are cardinal virtues which encourage and anchors cooperative economics and provides the best context for personal and social development.

Ingathering Activity: Today we come together as family to talk about the principle Ujamaaand how we have observed this principle in practice throughout the year. Like the Ujima, Ujamaa is a multiplier principle in that it impacts and reinforces the other principles. The model for cooperative economic must begin in the family. That is to say, the value and commitment for sharing is created and cultivate in the home.

Therefore, today we discuss ways of revenue sharing in the family. From the family we want to discuss the possibility of expanding to the larger community. We already have some forms of revenue sharing such as investment clubs. Employing the principle Ujamaa in the family unit and extended family is a small step toward addressing the economic well-being of African Americans.

Candle Lighting Activity

On the fourth day of Kwanzaa, the family lights the red candle. This candle is symbolic of the collective work and effort. Kwanzaa commitments are made around the principle of Cooperative Economics.


Ujima Day

December 28, 2014
Ujima Day

Third Day of Kwanzaa

UJIMA (00-GEE-MA) COLLECTIVE WORK AND RESPONSIBILITY: To build and maintain our community together and make our sister’s and brother’s problems our problems and solve them together.

The third principle, Ujima, encourages self-criticism and personal evaluation, as it relates to the common good of the family/community. Without collective work and struggle, progress is impossible. The family and the community must accept the reality that we are collectively responsible for our failures, as well as our victories and achievements. 

Commentary: The Ujima principle is best illustrated in history by my grand parents and their community in Sunnyside Texas. The adults in the community assumed the responsibility of ensuring the welfare of the families and children. They shared in the collective discipline and parenting of the children. They assisted each other in times of emergencies and disaster. In as word, the welfare of one was the welfare of all. 

A bundle cannot be fastened with one hand.

Explanation: No man is completely self-sufficient. We have need of each other.


Significant In African American Events

Underground Railroad

The system of receiving, concealing, and freeing blacks who escaped slavery is known as the Underground Railroad. The “Railroad” started in the early 19th century and was made up of a tightly knit network of safe houses located at strategic points along the escape routes coming our of the South. African Americans who traveled the Underground Railroad referred to also as the “Freedom Train”, were escorted by a conductor, the person working secretly for the “Railroad” and managed the planned escapes. The Underground Rail road had complex, mathematical codes that allowed the “conductors” and “operators” to evade capture.

Candle Lighting

On the third day of Kwanzaa the family  light the green candle next to the black candle. This candle is symbolic of future success and achievement. 

Happy Kwanzaa


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