Kwanzaa Midyear Assessment

July 17, 2014
Kwanzaa Midyear Assessment

Taking Inventory

As mentioned elsewhere, taking inventory of what has been accomplished relative to the Seven Principles, specifically academic performance, is a powerful and instructive Kwanzaa activity. Moreover, the color scheme of the Kwanzaa candles- black, red, and green-imparts a strong academic message and method for educational success. Below is testimony to adherence to the “red candle” of Kwanzaa.


Akili Imara

The red candle, which symbolizes one’s effort, will forever be my muse in life. I excelled in my college classes this past academic semester, because of a renewed commitment to measure school and academic success by how much effort I put forth in my studies. The red Kwanzaa candle instructs that prosperity or achieved success in life, including school, is based on effort.

There were times this semester when I wanted to give up because of the difficulty of a problem. However, the red candle was a constant reminder of the need or requirement to continue to “push forward.” Being aware of this, I recommitted myself to following the instructions and lessons of the red Kwanzaa candle. I can honestly say that I my academic success this past semester was based on observing the lessons of the red Kwanzaa candle.

Khadija Imara

In the Kwanzaa celebration, the candles-black, symbolic of black people; red, symbolic of effort and persistent practice; and green, symbolic of prosperity, which comes as a result of persistent effort- have meaning for everyday practice and personal development. This past semester, I used the red candle as a yardstick to measure my investment in my education. Moreover, using the red candle as an instructive model, I invested a great deal of time and effort in my studies, making my academic studies a priority.

This past semester, I started by asking myself: How much was I willing to invest in my education and future? Accordingly, I stayed on top of my deadlines and made sure I worked on my studies everyday. To be sure, each day I made a conscious effort to invest in my studies, doubling my time and effort on studies that in the past I would have written off as to difficult. As a result of dedicating my time and effort to my studies, I received A’s in all of my classes. The success of my academic performance (the green candle) is a direct correlation to the amount of time I dedicated to investing in myself. Using the lesson and message of red candle of Kwanzaa, I achieved greater academic success.


Father’s Day: A Kwanzaa Guide Commentary

June 14, 2014
Father’s Day: A Kwanzaa Guide Commentary

The need to celebrated Father’s Day takes on a more urgent and special need in America in general and among African Americans in particular. Consider that the latest census shows that one-third of American children – a total of 15 million – are being raised without a father, and 72% of blacks children are raised by a single female parent.

Why does this matter. Statistics show children of unmarried mothers of any race are more likely to perform poorly in school, go to prison, use drugs, be poor as adults, and have their own children out of wedlock.

All of these negative outcomes will continue to arrest the development of black children unless we begin to reverse this trend. Hence, this suggests a call for men to be active, present, and attentive fathers.

For those men who have assume the role of a father, we praise and honor you with the poets words:

He is…Father

…He is

the shine in a little girl’s eyes

the icon of a son in the mirror

a husband to his woman

a provider & a leader

the endearing traits of a real man

    personified in how He lives

Time To Take Stock: Kwanzaa Midyear Assessment

June 12, 2014
Time To Take Stock: Kwanzaa Midyear Assessment


Midyear Kwanzaa Assessment

Six months out from Kwanzaa (December 26, 2014), its time to take inventory of what has been accomplished relative to the Seven Principles. This is a time for the family to come together and to evaluate the progress of family members in achieving their Kwanzaa commitments.

For children and youth, assessing Kwanzaa commitments at this time of the year can be a potent way of recognizing and reinforcing desirable behavior and reinforce the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa. Given that this is the end of the school year, this is a fitting time to assess and reward children and teens for their school achievement and other Kwanzaa commitments. 

Retrieve your “Kwanzaa Set.” The Kwanzaa Set is central and essential to celebrating the Kwanzaa holiday. Ensure that you have black, red, and green candles, corn ears, heritage symbol and books as well as the other Kwanzaa symbols. Review or start a Kwanzaa journal.

Second, review the Swahili and English names of the symbols as well as the 7 Principles. Doing this as a family or with friends can be an enriching and instructive experience, especially for children and youth. In particular review the meaning and significance of the color of the Kwanzaa candles.

Kwanzaa Ingathering

Kwanzaa ingathering activity brings the family together to reinforce the ties which bind family members and friends together. Similar to the Kwanzaa celebration, the family comes together to celebrate the love and joy of being a family and to take stock of what the family has accomplished measured against the 7 Principles of Kwanzaa.

Assessing Family Achievement

Here we are tailoring the assessment to focus on the family.

Black Candle






The black candle symbolizes each member of the family and the family as a whole. Here we want to stress the value of each family member and reinforce their relational value and importance to the family. And, we want to emphasize that each member of the family is obligated to honor the family by contributing to the family’s growth, strength, and development and to not engage in behavior that would bring harm to the family.

Red Candle









The red candle symbolizes practice characterized by effort, work, and continuous improvement, and diligence. The stress here is placed on how much has the child, youth, or adult applied him or herself. Even if the goal is not reached or progress has been slow, it is important to recognize effort as much as what has been achieved.

The lesson to punctate here is that effort, work, struggle, and diligence foreshows or is the prerequisite to achievement. Put another way, we ask, how much have I invested in my family, my future and myself?

Green Candle










The green candle symbolizes thriving and flourishing as evidenced by both individual and collective achievement of the family. For children and youth, assessing and recognizing school performance and achievement is paramount. So too is the collective achievements of the family.

In brief, this Kwanzaa activity is an indispensible aid to keeping the family focused on behavior and achievements that will assist the family in prospering and in functioning at a high level. This is a much a tool for high level family functioning as it is for monitoring of Kwanzaa commitments.


Maya Angelou: An Appreciation

May 28, 2014
Maya Angelou: An Appreciation

Maya Angelou: Poet for a People

April 4, 1928- May 28, 2014





The passing of Maya Angelou raises the question, “What happens when a great tree falls in the forest?” Angelou was aliterary voice who commanded the world’s attention.

Maya unapologetically drew her poetry and writing from the black southern tradition. Commenting on her literary works, she said, “I find in my poetry and prose the rhythms and imagery of the best — when I’m at my best — of the good Southern black preachers. The lyricism of the spirituals and the directness of gospel songs and the mystery of blues are in my music, are in my poetry and prose, or I’ve missed everything.

Her poetic genius gave voice to the voiceless, hope to the hopeless, and vision to the blind.

Even death will not silence her voice, for in her own words:

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

And thus it is her resilient spirit, her creativity in the face of adversity that we honor, we remember, and we embrace. Her works, infused with hope and possibility, will trump her physical death.

She speaks to and will continue to communicate and inform those young girls and women who are submerged beneath the shadow standards of “American beauty.” She will lift up these women and informs them that despite what others may think or approve of, they are in fact phenomenal women:

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,   

The stride of my step,   

The curl of my lips.   

I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,   

That’s me.

And so, on this day of her passing, it is proper and fitting that we honor a phenomenal woman forever- Maya Angelou.

African Liberation Day: May 25, 2014

May 24, 2014
African Liberation Day: May 25, 2014

The History of African Liberation Day (ALD)

ALD was founded in 1958 when Kwame Nkrumah convened the First Conference of Independent States held in Accra, Ghana and attended by eight independent African states. The 15th of April was declared “African Freedom Day,” to mark each year the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolize the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.

Between 1958 and 1963 decolonization intensified in Africa and the world. Seventeen countries in Africa won their independence and 1960 was proclaimed the Year of Africa. On the 25th of May 1963, thirty-one African Heads of state convened a summit meeting to found the Organization of African Unity (OAU). They renamed African Freedom Day “African Liberation Day” and changed its date to May 25th.

African American Liberation Day 2014

There is a stark contrast between the euphoria and possibilities that African independence signal in the 1960s and the tragedy which we see today in Africa: Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and Uganda. Notwithstanding the history of colonialism and post-colonialism in Africa, as well as the complexities of modernity and global capitalism, Africa today is in retreat from what Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Malcolm and Marcus Garvey envisioned.

ALD provides us with the opportunity to assess the progress of African on the continent and Africans in America. Unquestionably, Africans on the continent and in the diaspora have lost much of the spirit and character and practice of the 1960s where the dawning of a new Africa and a new world seems possible and probable. The Africa of the 1960s, which had so much promise, along with the African American Freedom Movement of the 60s that supported the African freedom struggles, and offered a parallel vision of a new America and a renewed Africa, has been pushed to the background in favor of a political economy that favors the African elites and European /American interest.

Therefore, ALD gives us an opportunity to take stock of where we are, in terms of progress, as defined by the great voices and leaders of the 1960s freedom movements on the African continent and in the diaspora. Thus, we offer the evaluative standards of Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Malcolm, and Frantz Fanon, to measure the progress against the criteria which these standard-bearers set.

Marcus Garvey on The United States of Africa







There is no state left out of the union-

East, West, North, South, including Central

Are in the nation, strong forever

Over blacks in glorious dominion

Hail! United States of Africa-free!

Country of the brave black man’s liberty

State of greater nationhood thou hast won

A new life for the race is just begun

Assessment: This celebratory poem and statement by Garvey is both aspirational and a vital standard to Africa to build efficacy and capacity. Kwame Nkrumah who advocated for a United States of Africa took this challenged up. The Organization of African Union ((formerly Organization of African Unity) was formed “To promote the unity and solidarity of the African states and act as a collective voice for the African continent.” Yet, the Organization of African Union (OAU) has yields little if any power and is lacks the will and capacity to be a major force on the continent and in the world.

However, such a body can play a vital role in forging Garvey’s vision. While the United States of Africa is a more difficult and long-term project, a 60s type political movement could very well give impetus to new leadership and political will toward achieving aims of OAU:

  • To promote the unity and solidarity of the states Africa and act as a collective voice for the African continent. This was important to secure Africa’s long-term economic and political future.

  • To co-ordinate and intensify the co-operation of African states in order to achieve a better life for the people of Africa

  • To defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of African states.

Inasmuch as the “OAU was also dedicated to the eradication of all forms of colonialism and white minority rule, accomplishing these aims would meet Garvey’s standard and come very close to realizing his vision.

Kwame Nkrumah’s Call for the Development of Africa as a Single Political Unit

No single part of Africa can be safe, or free to develop fully and independently, while any part remains un-liberated, or while Africa’s vast economic resource continue to be exploited by imperialist and neo-colonialist interests. Unless Africa is politically united under an All-Africa Union Government, there can be no solution to our political and economic problems.


Assessment: Nkrumah echoed Marcus Garvey call for political a union of African states. In light of global capitalism and its attendant political, economic and military structures (World Trade Organization, G8, NATO, IMF, World Bank), Nkrumah advocacy of a political union of African states has proven insightful and correct. All of the aforementioned international organizations are dedicated to the continued dominance of Africa and the world.

Put differently, these organization are merely an extension of the colonial powers which colonized Africa. Only a political union dedicated to the development of Africa on Africa’s terms can push back against the continued underdevelopment of Africa. Nkrumah understood that the condition of one African nation-state was the condition of all African nation-states.

If Africa is to move forward and progress, it will have to come to terms with the standard set forth by Nkrumah or continue to face the specter of underdevelopment and the consequence of climate change and endemic diseases.

 Sekou Toure on Toward Full Re-Africanization



Africa cannot agree to become an organic extension of any system of states or ideologies whatsoever…Every time we adopt a solution authentically African in its nature and conception, we shall solve our problems easily because all who take part in it will be neither disorientated nor surprise by what they have to achieve.

Assessment: Toure insightfully notes that the development of Africa must be rooted in and based on its own culture and history. Toure comprehended that the borrowing of any foreign ideologies or systems must be filtered through the lens of African culture. And, more importantly, that task of nation building required full Re-Africanization- thinking, vision, values, methods, know-how, structures and systems, that colonialism was both a condition and an system of views and values, and that the first step toward real independence was a step back to African culture. Toure lesson is instructive for both Africans on the continent and in the diaspora.

 Malcolm X on a United and Self-determined Africa




A united Africa is a strong and independent Africa, an Africa that can stand on its own feet, walk for itself, and avoid the snares and pitfalls devised by the “benevolent” imperialists to keep the mother continent divided, weak, and dependent upon the “philanthropic” West for “economic” aid, political “guidance,” and military “protection.”

Assessment: Malcolm X, like Garvey and Nkrumah, established unity as the quintessential standard for political and economic independence. Prophetically, Malcolm anticipated the seductive trap of economic aid by Europe and the United States, which would impoverish Africa. Ignoring Malcolm’s counsel African nations have mortgaged their future and abdicated their political and economic independence.

Further, Malcolm linked political independence with economic independence, and military capacity, capable of defending the interest of Africa. Moreover, he saw political unity among African states as the counter to neocolonialism. However, dreadfully, Africa today has become as appendage of Europe and the United States, incapable of protecting its own citizens, including children, and floundering from one humanitarian crisis to another. Thus, the path forward for Africa begins with the principles of unity and self-determination as foretold by Malcolm X.

Frantz Fanon on Africa Creating a New Humanity


Let us waste no time in sterile litanies and nauseating mimicry. Leave this Europe where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them, at the corner of every one of their own streets, in all the corners of the globe… Let us decide not to imitate Europe; let us combine our muscles and our brains in a new direction. Let us try to create the whole man, whom Europe has been incapable of bringing to triumphant birth… So, comrades, let us not pay tribute to Europe by creating states, institutions and societies which draw their inspiration from her. Humanity is waiting for something other from us than such an imitation, which would be almost an obscene caricature. For Europe, for ourselves and for humanity, comrades, we must turn over a new leaf, we must work out new concepts, and try to set afoot a new man.

Assessment: In this poetic and lyrical statement, Fanon pleads with Africa to think anew, to create, counter to Europe and the United States, new societies and institutions and cultures which created and support a new man and woman, capable of achieving at their highest human potential.

Moreover, Assessment:Fanon asks Africa to accept history’s invitation to chart a new course for humanity, to invent fresh ideas and methods of being fully human. Tragically, the political and economic elites of Africa have turn a deaf ear to Fanon; and instead, mimicked and imitated Europe/United States. The culture hegemony of Europe/United States, i.e., white dominance in views and values (including standards of reasoning) have now smothered and ensnared Africa, robbing it of its independence, its potential and its promise. Africa on the continent and Africans in the diaspora would be well served to revisit Fanon and accept his invitation to save humanity.

In light of the above, let us all be aware that as we celebrate African Liberation Day, let’s work to meet the standards set forth above by the teachers and leaders we so dearly respect and love.



Judging America: Malcolm X and Martin Luther King

May 18, 2014
Judging America: Malcolm X and Martin Luther King

African American History Breakthrough Series

The month of May marks the birthday of Malcolm X, one of the most influential voices and leaders of the twentieth-century. The African American History Breakthrough Series is proud to celebrate the life and achievements of Malcolm X.

Malcolm X’s legacy is expansive and profoundly insightful and instructive. To ignore his body of work would be to leave us intellectually impoverished, socially stagnated, and politically immature. We celebrate the birthday of Malcolm X and in celebrating him, we “celebrate the best in ourselves.”

The Dialectical Unity of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King general are discussed as polar opposites and rarely paired together. Undoubtedly, they had stark differences- one moderate, the other radical; one Christian, the other Muslim; and one an advocate of nonviolence, the other a believer in violence in the context of self-defense. Yet, there are substantive points of agreement between the two them.

Thus, accounting for their differences, Malcolm and Martin were both critical of America and shared a similar critique of the American system and government. King during the last year of his life, King adopted a more radical view, putting him, along with Malcolm, crosshairs of the FBI Cointelpro. On many issues, the two were moving toward common ground. Malcolm X made attempts to reach out to King which inspired Coretta Scott King, to see the hope of a transforming convergence between Malcolm and her husband.

Therefore, viewed in this light, there is fertile ground for pairing Malcolm X and Martin Luther together in judging America. Surprisingly, King became increasing pessimistic regarding America becoming the nation he outlined in his I Have A Dream speech. King acknowledged that not long after talking about the dream in Washington, “I started seeing it turn into a nightmare.” Malcolm X had been critical of King’s speech saying, “While King was having a dream, the rest of us Negroes are having a nightmare.

On America

Hence, by 1964, King and Malcolm saw America in full retreat from its of repairing the harm of slavery and the attendant racism, as put forth in the Great Society and the vision of the Civil Rights Movement. That same year, Malcolm had warned white America that this was a critical year for action, that it would be The Ballot or The Bullet.” And, by 1968, King raised the question of whether blacks would able to celebrate the Bicentennial, because It has never had any real meaning in terms of implementation in our lives.”

Next, both Malcolm and Martin vehemently voiced disapproval of America’s war abroad. In January 1965, the month before he was assassinated, Malcolm X denounced the Vietnam War, placing Africans and African Americans on the same side as “those little rice farmers” who had defeated French colonialism, and predicted a similar defeat for “Sam.” Similarly, King voiced even a more biting criticism of America’s war effort in Vietnam.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.”

Moreover, Malcolm X and King indicted America for its use of violence. Malcolm in more racial tones asserted that the white man’s collective history of violence and destruction merited branding him as the devil. In responding to his reason for calling whites the devil, he said:

Because that’s what he is. What do you want me to call him, a saint? Anybody who rapes, and plunders, and enslaves, and steals, and drops hell bombs on people… anybody who does these things is nothing but a devil. Look…history rewards all research. And history fails to record one single instance in which the white man –as a people–did good. They have always been devils; they always will be devils, and they are about to be destroyed. The final proof that they are devils lies in the fact that they are about to destroy themselves. Only a devil–and a stupid devil at that–would destroy himself!

King too railed against American violence, believing that it undermined her ideals and possibilities. In his celebrated speech, Beyond Vietnam, he stated, “The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.” And, in a stunting admission he proclaimed, “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world : My own Government, I can not be silent.”

God Judgment of America

Owing to the enslavement of blacks and their continued oppression, as well as the unrepentant disposition of America toward blacks, Malcolm and King believe that God would judge America harshly. Accordingly, God would punish her severely. Malcolm X cautioned:

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us that as it was divine will in the case of the destruction of the slave empires of the ancient and modern past, America’s judgment and destruction will also be brought about by divine will and divine power. Just as ancient nations paid for their sins against humanity, White America must now pay for her sins against twenty-two million “Negroes.” White America’s worst crimes her hypocrisy and her deceit. White America pretends to ask herself: “What do these Negroes want?” White America knows that four hundred years of cruel bondage has made these twenty-two million ex-slaves too (mentally) blind to see what they really want.

White America should be asking herself: “What does God want for these twenty-two million ex-slaves?” Who will make White America know what God wants? Who will present God’s plan to White America? What is God’s solution to the problem caused by the presence of twenty-two million unwanted slaves here in America? And who will present God’s solution?

King too believed that America would be judge and punished by God. As Cornel West points out, “King’s dream of a more democratic America had become, in his words, “a nightmare,” owing to the persistence of “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism.” Because of this, King called America a “sick society.” On the Sunday after his assassination, in 1968, he was to have preached a sermon titled “Why America May Go to Hell.” West stress that “King did not think that America ought to go to hell, but rather that it might go to hell owing to its economic injustice, cultural decay and political paralysis.”

The Prophetic Judgment of Malcolm and Martin

Today, we are living out the prophetic of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Since the Vietnam War, America has been on a permanent war footing to the detriment of its status and standing in the world and the general welfare of its citizens. Malcolm warned America that “All the prophets of the past listed America as number one among the guilty nations that would be too proud and to blind to repent and atone when God’s last messenger raised in her midst to warn her.”

We are now witnessing perpetual war. The United States has been engaged in what the great historian Charles A. Beard called “perpetual war for perpetual peace.” The Federation of American Scientists has cataloged nearly 200 military incursions since 1945 in which the United States has been the aggressor.

Like Malcolm, , King admonished and warned America of the madness of but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.” Further, he counseled: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

And, finally both believed that the cure for America’s sickness laid in a revolution that would reset America’s vision and values. Though Malcolm believed that revolutions were bloody and violent, he also believed that “America the only country in history in a position to bring about a revolution without violence and bloodshed,” if it became morally capable. And, mirroring Malcolm, King called for a revolution of values:

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. … A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

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