Kwanzaa Ingathering: Reinforcing Family Togetherness

October 25, 2012

One of the most meaningful activities of Kwanzaa is the daily ingathering activity. Based on the celebrations in traditional African societies, often referred to as the first fruits celebrations in which families and the larger community would come together to celebrate the harvest, the common good, and the coming of a new year, Kwanzaa in-gathering in a similar fashion calls the family together to reinforce the bonds of unity and affection.

Yet, families are challenged to find time for family engagement. So often work and family time are pitted against each other, making it difficult for parents to spend the requisite time with their children. Added to this are the new tech toys: I-Phones, I-Pods, I-Pads, and the obsession with social media- Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, texting, emailing, all of which focuses attention away from collective family activities. Music, for example, used to be a shared experience, prompting spontaneous group singing. Now, children and adults are secluded in their own musical world. Hence, even the most basic family activity, riding in the car together which allowed for dialogue and interaction, has now turned into a silo event in which everyone plugs in and tunes out.

All of this underscores the importance and value of the Kwanzaa in-gathering activity as a means to re-center and reinforce the family as the primary forces for social and ethical development. To the extent that children and adults find their meaning, well-being, and happiness in the context and activities of their family life, they are most likely to lead healthy lives. Moreover, for families in general and especially those in low-income and stressed neighborhoods, the family in-gathering activity is crucial to maintaining social and affective bonds which hold the family together while reinforcing their identity as a family.

That families, parents, and yes, children, are under stress and pressure which often cancels out and pushes against family bonding can not be overstated. Urine Bronfenbrenner, one of the primer developmental scientists cautions:

The unthinking exercise of massive technological power, and an unquestioning acquiescence to the demands of industrialization, can unleash forces that, if left unbridled, can destroy the human ecosystem. Based in the family unit, but extending far beyond, this ecosystem comprises the social fabric that sustains our capacity to live and work together effectively and to raise our children and youth to become competent and compassionate members of our society.

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