Kwanzaa: The Nia/Purpose Principle

December 8, 2012

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”

Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce the 7 Principles and reinforced the bonds of family and community.  The Seven Principles were viewed and still remain the “moral minimum” set of values which African Americans need to strengthen and make more effective families and family systems. The values embedded in the 7 Principles of Kwanzaa are interlocking and align together and synergistically produce an outcome greater than each of the values isolated individually.

To be sure, the 7 Principles habitually default in duties and responsibilities. Duties are “how the individual members of the family and community see their socio-ethical roles in relation to the interest and welfare of others and responsibilities are the reciprocal obligations these members have to each other.

The 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 strikingly 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.” This is an affirmation that nation building begins at the smallest level, the family.

Put another way, Nia imposes a specific obligatory task of collective work and service, on blacks, and that the performance of these tasks and service contributes to nation building, with the starting point being the family and extending to the wider community.  To be sure, Nia gives  blacks an enlarged sense of duty, a more noble purpose in life, one  which African Americans feel they owe each other as a whole by reason of their common history and humanity, shared purpose and ends, and as such should demonstrate in practice the duty to elevate the race.

In nation building, African Americans not only contribute to the well-being of blacks, but also contribute to the cultural richness of America and humanity. Nationhood is not a state into which people are born but rather a task demanding fulfillment by conscious development. That is to say, the collective consciousness of African Americans is its culture and cultural production, i.e., its classical literature and music, its scientific discovery and knowledge, and its ethical and spiritual teachings.

Moreover, Nia asserts that it is the duty of every African American to inspire and educate black people to become appropriate citizens who understand that their aspirations must coincide with the highest morally serious purpose of the collective vocation of nation building, and that it is the duty of African Americans to help their people develop and fulfill their potentiality. For the culture nation is a higher moral community, stretching beyond individualism.

Therefore, during Kwanzaa, families and others take inventory and discuss: what they have done to contribute to the noble purpose of nation building, and what they will do in the coming year (recommitment) to practice the principle of Nia/Purpose in their daily lives.

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