The Fourth Kwanzaa Symbol: Corn/Muhindi

November 22, 2011

Kwanzaa symbols make up the “Kwanzaa Set” and are an essential part of the Kwanzaa celebration. Kwanzaa symbols are representations of the best of who we are and echo our highest ideals. Kwanzaa symbols reinforce the values, concepts and themes of the Kwanzaa holiday. The symbols also are instructive, furnishing lessons and narratives which can serve as powerful illustrations in support of an enriched social, moral and intellectual development. Discussion and activities around this Kwanzaa symbol adds value to the holiday while reinforcing the importance and priority of children and parenting.

Symbol Four: Corn/Muhindi This is Kwanzaa symbol represents children. All families regardless of whether they have children place ears of corn on the Kwanzaa “Mat” in recognition that we all are collectively responsible for the care, welfare, and development of children.

Explanation: Kwanzaa emphasizes the value and preciousness of children. Building on and exploring with deeper meaning the popular African proverb: ‘It Takes a Village of Raise a Child,” encourages a traditional African approach to parenting as the best method for childhood development. In the African context, children belong to the community, and hence; it is the duty of every adult to nurture, care for, and raise children. Children as Adama and Naomi Doumbia explain in Africa children “have more than one set of parents and know many women as mother and many men as father.” In this parenting approach, the child grows up experiencing and knowing that all adults are responsibility for his/her well-being, and that support does not rest solely with his/her parents. What fathers can not offer, uncles will. What mothers can not give sisters and cousins will. Hence, the child begins life with an enlarged sense of belonging and significance.

Moreover, in the traditional African framework of parenting, no child grows up without love and guidance. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and neighbors all share in the nurturing, support and instructions of the child. Traditional Africans stressed the importance of weaving a network of care, concern, and support in every domain of the child’s life. They were clear that children were the collective responsibility of everyone in the village (community), and that it was the responsibility of both the family and community to create persons of substance out of the untapped potential of children. Thus, the statement that children are our future presumes that the adults of a community will cultivate and shape the untapped potential of children, making it possible for them flourishes and become the future.

In short, the Kwanzaa symbol “corn/muhindi” reminds us of that the development and well-being of children are the collective responsibility of all adults. We all, therefore, place an ear of corn on the “Kwanzaa Set” in recognition of our responsibility and as a reminder of one of the more effective models for parenting children.

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