Archive | December, 2011

KUUMBA- Creativity – Thinking Outside The Box

31 Dec


On the sixth day of Kwanzaa we reflect upon Creativity and make the world a more beautiful place then we found it. However, creativity is more than aesthetics and arts, it’s about using our critical thinking skills to bring about positive change and to sustain ourselves and our families. It’s about finding creative solutions to the issues we encounter at times.


NIA – Purpose – The Reason We Exist

30 Dec


The fifth day of Kwanzaa is about Purpose: Understanding your role in the community towards the growth and continuation of the community; and understanding your importance to the community. It is human nature for people to need to feel useful and to have a reason to be. One of the central elements to a people developing self- esteem is having a sense of purpose. It is important to instill our youth with a sense of purpose and the proper values of living as a part of the collective or we allow for the negative side of finding purpose to permeate, e.g., street- gangs are largely due to a need for young people to feel a sense of purpose.

UJAMMA- Cooperative Economics – The Black Dollar

29 Dec

The fourth Day of Kwanzaa is about cooperative economics. The pooling of resources as well as the decision to invest in businesses within a community as share holders and/or customers. Let us say that there were ten people who wanted to own businesses; stores, shops and offices. Alone, none of these folks have the resources to actualize their dreams. However, if they pool their resources as investments into the most viable business idea, eventually they would have the resources to support each business’ start-up costs. As members of the community, if we make the decision to spend our money at these businesses and support them, we are keeping our money within the community. Both of these are examples of UJAMMA.

UJIMA – Collective Work & Responsibility – Find Your Spot in the Collective

28 Dec


On this third day of Kwanzaa, we reflect on Collective Work and Responsibility. For the individual, it’s a time to review your talents, abilities and goals and see how they fit into the larger picture of the community/ collective. Once one has created council (UMOJA) and set their policy (KUJICHAGULIA) it is time to figure out who is who in the organization: the leadership, the intelligentsia (which is not always the same thing as the leadership, but often the advisory body) and such. For any organized body to get from point “A” to point “B” all members need to look at the tasks at hand and see what they can do make it happen.

An extremely simplified, yet effective example: your group decides to organize a bake sale to raise money for an project. Not everybody can or knows how to bake, but some folks know how to make signs and posters, some folks know how to draw customers,  some are good at negotiating good locations for the sale to take place, and some are good at setting prices for the baked goods, commanding top dollar for items while remaining competitive. Taking this same model and applying it to a macro concept; the same basic principles that it takes to organize and implement the bake sale are the same principles it takes to organize and implement anything on any scale.

This the central principle thesis in Plato’s ‘The Republic’ where he offer a Socratic contention that the best societies are those organized in such a way where people are allowed to do what they do best, using these skills to contribute to the maintenance of the societies growth and development. In Rousseau’s writings on, “The Social Contract” we find examples of collective work and responsibility within a society, whereby people on all social and economic levels become equal contributors to the betterment of their society.

Enjoy the Day!!!

Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor

Kujichagulia – Self Determination – Define & Declare Your Community & Culture

27 Dec


The second day of Kwanzaa is about Self Determination; a collectives ability to define themselves as a community and a culture. Older examples in the US, although not Afrocentric, can be seen with the existences of such neighborhoods as “Little Italy” in the Bronx and Lower Manhattan sections of New York City and “Chinatown” which can be found in almost every major city. Places were people of an ethos not only lived together, but maintained their own businesses, languages, cultural traditions, leadership, etc. The rejection of “assimilation” into the so-called mainstream and the embracing of “acculturation” where we as a people borrow aspects of other cultures that work within the frameworks of our lives. Within the Black community, such groups as The United Nation of Islam and the Twelve Tribes are religion- based examples of Kujichagulia within the Black community. The lasting impact and effects of the Black Arts Movement, from the 1960’s to the present is an aesthetic based examples of the principle.

One of the unfortunate aspects of Black people in America is our inability to accept diversity within our own community. We tend to draw and maintain deep lines based on place of origin (e.g., Caribbean, American born, African, etc.), religion (Christian, Muslim, Rastafarian, etc.) and a myriad of other differences that we use as a basis to divide ourselves. Being able to embrace these differences, qualities and contributions; and recognize them for the depth and beauty within our larger community is part of what Kujichagulia is about.

Enjoy the Day!!!

Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor

UMOJA – Come Together – Create (or Maintain) Council

26 Dec


It’s the first day of Kwanzaa. A holiday celebration founded by Dr. Mulana Kerenga in the 1960’s, combing a variety of harvest celebration from the African continent, with the particular Week that follows Christmas celebrating that people do. Interestingly, focused around the Nguzo Sabba (7 Principles), which are curiously the basic elements of any organized/ civilized body of people. Structured in the form of any ritualized holiday observance, where each day is set to reflect on the principle and examples of the principle in action. Kwanzaa is clearly not a religious holiday, but one that is motivated by sociopolitical and economic foundations; neatly packaged within a language that is fundamentally a trade language.

The first day of Kwanzaa, December 26th, is UMOJA, which is Kiswahili for “Unity” which carries a much deeper meaning then the cliche of simply coming together in Kente cloth robes, but it is a time to come together and create or maintain council. Define your community and clan/ family structure. What is your organizational structure and purpose? Who plays what role in the function of your collective? What are the standards and ethics of the group? In the end what will you have hoped to have built or continued? This is the true meaning of Unity beyond the symbol: the lasting effects of the unity.

Of course, as with the irony of many progressive rituals, the ritual is lost in the quagmire of the politics behind the founder and the misinterpretation of the message behind the vision. The validity of the Nguzo Sabba is often lost on those who remember that Kerenga was the leader of a rival organization to the Black Panther Party, called US and was believed to be a funded operative of the Co-Intel-Pro of the FBI. All of this may or may not be true, but the bottom line is this: let us look at the principles of each day and consider them for their deeper meanings,beyond the symbols, and what are the true lessons.

“My enemy’s enemy is my friend; so let us be friends…” – Sun Tzu

Qualities should be found in the perfect prince that would someday unite all of the city-states in Italy.” – Niccoli Machiavelli


– by Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor

The Slow, Painful Death of Boston’s Black Middle Class – Part I

7 Dec
Marcus Garvey

by Mwalim *7)

It was in the late 1990’s that I became a part of a group called The State of Young Black Boston, an organization comprised of the up and coming young,
mainstream-bound leadership of Black Boston. There was an attitude and element with this group that seemed to differ from the older generation; but I could not put my finger on it. In time it became apparent: The cultural, political, and economic worlds of Black Boston where once much more cohesive and maintained a balance that yielded an urbane and educated community.

Monroe Trotter

Today, their social descendants are a much less well- rounded group of seemingly more opportunistic and superficial individuals; where status rules over substance. The value of a Harvard degree is greater than the value of a Harvard education and cultural events mean that it has a bar and a DJ… and if we’re trying to fancy, we might spring for a band. The presence of the new breed of elected Black officials at community-based artistic and cultural events, as well as community originated civic dialogues is blatantly absent, unless guaranteed a ‘high profile’ photo op with other who’s-who of the new Black leadership (or has the fore mentioned bar and DJ). A far cry from the days of seeing Mel King and Byron Rushing in the audience of a play or concert in Freedom House; or Gloria Fox at a concert in Franklin Park.Watching this cultural and dare I say intellectual de-evolution over the past 25 years has been both a fascinating and incredibly sad experience; just as it is to watch any tragedy unfold.

It was 1986 when I first arrived in Boston, as a freshman at Boston University. Two things that were made abundantly clear when I took a look at Boston’s social structure: 1) Boston was a segregated city. More so than New York; and 2) Boston’s Black community had an actual social and economic middle- class that was part of it’s social, political and economic leadership. The basic constructs and functional examples of Black Nationalism, Pan- Africanism/ Garveyism were apparent and served as an easy and welcoming world for a young man raised in a middle-class West Indian household.The cautions issued by Boston University during orientations, telling us to steer clear of Roxbury. Dorchester and “the murder capital of Massachusetts”

Elma Lewis

Mattapan, eventually went unheeded by a few of us who wanted access to a Black community with barbershops and pattie shops, clothing and record stores like the ones in our own communities in New York, Chicago, Philly and St. Louis.

To an 18 year-old, far from his family in New York (all be it a short bus ride to my people in Mashpee) this city and community would play an integral role in my progression into young adulthood and growth as an artist, teacher and man. Sadly, this world is rapidly disappearing and what is replacing it is gravely lacking the core foundation and leadership to sustain the quality of effort of the past.

(To Be Continued)