I first participated in Kwanzaa in 2013. It was eye-opening (no woke pun intended). After my experience, I plan on attending a Kwanzaa celebration for the rest of my life. I’m not an expert but I’ve been to a few across different cities in North Carolina and one in Mississippi.

I know people may have an image of people that attend Kwanzaa festivals. This is why I prefer to make the principles applicable to real life. Let’s reflect on how some principles of Kwanzaa presented itself in 2017.

The first thing that comes to mind is droves of black women and men saving America by voting against Roy Moore. There are mixed feelings concerning voting in the black community. Nonetheless, black men and women united to vote against bigotry, misogyny, and retrogression. This represents the first principle:

 Umoja: Unity to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

There is something intriguing about the arts expressed through Black lens. Last year, we were encouraged to rebel through Beyoncé’s Lemonade album. This year, her husband at least made people consider alternatives to using their money. On his song, The Story of OJ. He raps,

In the song Family Feud, he raps, “ F**k rap, crack cocaine Nah, we did that, Black-owned things. Hundred percent. Black-owned champagne. And we merrily merrily eating’ off these streams. Y’all still drinkin’ Perrier-Jouet, hah but we ain’t get through to you yet, uh What’s better than one billionaire? Two Specially if they’re from the same hue as you.”  During an interlude, he says, “I’ll be damned if I drink some Belvedere while Puff got Cîroc.”Those lyrics and interlude represent the fourth principle Ujamaa.

Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics: To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit together.

Sticking with the theme of Art. It seemed films boldly defined blackness. Girls’ Trip showed an array of personalities from a long-term sisterhood. It also silenced the narrative that black women can’t get along. It was the first black-led movie to gross $100 Million yet wasn’t catered to appease the majority. Another film was a Netflix series She’s got to have it by Spike Lee. It highlighted gentrification, ancestors whose art shaped our lives, and the hyper-sexualization of black women. The main character, Nola Darling, had rules but dismissed society rules. There are other films like Insecure, Being Mary Jane (Side note: I didn’t like last season), Get Out, and Hidden Figures that gave another view of what it means to be black. This creativity of films to paint a different picture of black lives represents the principle of Kujichagulia.

Kujichagulia: Self-Determination. To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

These are only 3 out of 7 Principles. I’m sure there are more occurrences that relate to Kwanzaa. Whether you participate or oppose Kwanzaa, I think an individual household focusing on the principles can be impactful. Please feel free to comment on some of your 2017 and Kwanzaa parallels. Also, please share to build knowledge.

Onward and Upward. Progress to your fullest potential.

Phyllis G. Williams