Nia/Purpose: Day Five of Kwanzaa

December 29, 2010

A Celebration of Family, Community and the Common Good


To commit ourselves to the glorious duty of restoring our families, our neighborhoods, and our people to their historical greatness

Perspective on Purpose

The Kwanzaa principle purpose imposes a duty on our family and community members a commitment to make our families and neighborhoods function in a manner that affords children and adults the maximum conditions for developing and thriving. The family and community are the principal context for human development. Of all the settings that help make us human, the family provides the most important developmental conditions: the love and care of that a child needs to live.  A healthy child and future adult is one who has such a devoted people actively engage in its life – those who love it, spend time with it, challenge it, and are interested in what it does and wants to do, and what it accomplishes day to day.

Hence, the family becomes the starting point for restoring our people to their traditional greatness. Like a set of Russian doll, the context of human development work in a nested fashion, each one expanding beyond but containing the smaller one. Each one simultaneously influences and is influenced by the others. Thus the context of family fits into that of the neighborhood, and the context of the neighborhood into the larger context society and culture. Whatever factors affect any larger context will filters down to affect the innermost unit, the family.  In short, the greatness of the nation begins in the home.

Focus: What Purpose Day is about?

Purpose/Nia Day focuses on activities which reinforce the Kwanzaa principle purpose. Some activities may include, but are not mandatory:

  • Make the celebration focus on your family
  • Make the celebration festive and joyous
  • Try to have a special meal- at home or away

Review the Kwanzaa supplemental symbol the African American National flag

Purpose Day Activities:

  • Discuss great historical accomplishments by African Americans
  • Reach out on Facebook and establish a national dialogue on restoring the black family
  • Any activity which is directed at building a movement to repair and restore black families and neighborhoods

Purpose Expressed in Black History

I asked: “Where is the black man’s Government?” “Where is his King and his kingdom?” “Where is his President, his country, and his ambassador, his army, his navy, his men of big affairs?” I could not find them, and then I declared, “I will help to make them.”

-Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey led the first mass black movement of the twentieth century.  The Garvey movement called upon Africans everywhere to work reclaim Africa, struggle to reclaim their better selves, and strive to restore their history and humanity. Marcus Garvey believed in the primacy of race as the starting point for the liberation of all African people. He believed that the oppressed African people throughout the world should have as their primary objective the emancipation of themselves as a race.  Central to Garvey’s “race first” philosophy was the doctrine self-reliance and self determination.  All subsequent Black Power organizations and Black Nationalist leaders, including the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X, would draw from Garvey’s “race first” focus and owe a debt to his example and philosophy.  Using race as an organizing principle,   the Garvey Movement pushed for blacks to unify, organize, and control their own institutions and daily lives. Through the establishment of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the Garvey Movement inspired African people to dream again, constantly reminding them that they had once been kings and queens and rulers of great nations, and would again be rulers of themselves and Africa.  Moreover, the Garvey Movement awakened in black people a desire to be masters of their own destiny.  The Garvey Movement sought to build a nation within a nation, adopting the motto, “One God, One Aim, and One Destiny. The UNIA established chapters in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Panama, Australia, and on the continent of Africa. Reference: C. Boyd James, Garvey Garveyism and the Antinomies in Black Redemption. Read More at

Kwanzaa symbol

African American National Flag

The African American national flag was created and established by Marcus Garvey. The colors of the flag are: Black for black people; Red for effort and work; and Green for the future and prosperity.

Candle Lighting Activity

Candle Lighting: On the fifth day of Kwanzaa the family lights the green candle. This candle is symbolic of the prosperity and success. The placement and order of the Kwanzaa candles teach and reinforce valuable lessons for the family. The green candle is symbolic of a prosperous future which comes about as a result of work and effort. Hence, the family or community rewards the children and youth for their achievements.

The candle lighting activity presents one of the best moments for family members to assess their practice around “purpose” and make a specific commitment to practice “purpose” during the next year.

Note: Emphasize the positive in the assessment. Do not start with what has not been done. Reinforce and reward even partial achievement or success. Record your family commitments in a Kwanzaa journal.

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