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December 21, 2014

Peace Be With You

Where has this year gone? It is hard to believe that I am preparing to celebrate the last days of 2014. Since my last post, the world has changed significantly. The murder of black people, particularly black men, has forced Americans and the world to view this escalating and devastating problem. Murder by the hands of police, who are supposed to protect and serve everyone, has been shown on video and camera. "It is estimated that every 28 hours in America a Black man is being killed at hands of police"...Your'e probably thinking that can't be right. That's exactly what I thought when I heard and read the statistic. I was shocked when I learned that the numbers are three times that for the general populous according to the website "Killed By Police," May 1, 2013 to August 24th 2014, more than 1,450 people were killed at hands of police. The frequency in which police use lethal force is under reported by the media until high profile cases like Michael Brown, Eric Garner or Tamir Rice headline national news..." The statistics are chilling and can't be ignored.

The murders of Eric Garner in New York and 12 year old Tamir Rice of Cleveland were the latest victims. The nauseating and troubling events of these individuals deaths were that they were both captured on video and/or cameras. Michael Brown whose death has galvanized the black community and riveted Americans after the reaction of Ferguson Missourians. Protestors and residents of Ferguson demonstrated nonviolently which escalated to violence after the failure to indict the white police officer, Darren Wilson. The Attorney General of Missouri failed to act in a timely manner to indict the officer and many questions remain regarding the process and eventual findings of the secret grand jury proceedings. The visuals of the protestors attacked by heavily armed and militarized police officers is seared can’t be unseen. It is as though The Civil Rights Act was never law and as though Black lives don’t matter. The phrase “I can’t breathe” uttered 11 times by Eric Garner, gasping for breathe, as he was pulled to the ground by an illegal choke-hold at the hands of an police officer has become a call to rally and protest. Eric Garner’s, as with Michael Brown’s death, was found to be justifiable. Mr. Garner’s death, unlike Michael Browns was captured on video and played for all the world to see. The question lingers. Who are we to believe? The grand jury who found no reason to indict, or our lying eyes?

America’s race relations and the mistreatment of it’s Black citizens is a cancer that, if not treated, will certainly be one of the causes of Americans demise as the greatest country in the world.

President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have been thrust into the national debate regarding racist behavior and the attacks on unarmed people in the Black community. The push back by police and people that think the President and Attorney General Holder are inappropriate, indicates how deeply race colors America. The systematic racism intrenched in the judicial system also affects education, healthcare, employment and every aspect of Black peoples life directly and all Americans, indirectly. I don’t know how the national conversation on race will end but I do know that the continuous stripping of Civil Rights and Voting Rights by Republican legislators across the country sends an eerie message that Black lives and votes don’t matter. I encourage you to be part of this national movement to stop police from killing unarmed black people. Whatever you believe about the character of the black men and black children killed, certainly you believe murder is not the answer.

I have chosen to join a community group that has evolved since the non-indictment of the police officer that murdered Eric Garner. I thought my days of demonstrating were behind me as I find myself again rallying for basic human rights. I am tired but I know that if the images of a man choked to death on camera and a child shot down in a park within two-seconds of a police officer exiting his cruiser that I don’t have the luxury to watch and neither do you. What are you going to do?

A wonderful surprise and good news of the month was the announcement by President Obama, that we would change Americans fifty-two year relationship with Cuba. The 5 decade long embargo against Cuba didn’t work in it’s premise to get rid of Castro or his brother. What a positive and timely change for Americans. The decision by President Obama was overdue and his actions give credence to America who flies the flag for democracy and human rights. It is ironic that America the only country left with an embargo on Cuba for its human rights abuse is now faced with human rights abuse against its own citizens.

Many of you will be celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah this holiday season. I invite you to share the holiday tradition of my family, Kwanzaa. I had followed the tradition and participated in many community events for Kwanzaa but intentionally begin to choose it as the main focus of my holiday celebrations shortly before I married my beloved Morris. I found a wonderful summary of Kwanzaa’s principle and history by Holly Hartman which I have shared with you. I hope the information inspires you to host your own ceremony during the seven days of Kwanzaa or attend a Kwanzaa event in your community.

I thank everyone who visits my site and shares it with others. I look forward to an abundant, joyous and creative new year and I pray the same for you. Be blessed and Happy Kwanzaa from my heart to yours until 2015, PEACE.


KWANZAA by HOLLY HARTMAN



The year 2014 will see the 48th annual Kwanzaa, the African American holiday celebrated from December 26 to January 1. It is estimated that some 18 million African Americans take part in Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, nor is it meant to replace Christmas. It was created by Dr. Maulana "Ron" Karenga, a professor of Black Studies, in 1966. At this time of great social change for African Americans, Karenga sought to design a celebration that would honor the values of ancient African cultures and inspire African Americans who were working for progress.

Kwanzaa is based on the year-end harvest festivals that have taken place throughout Africa for thousands of years. The name comes from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," which means "first fruits of the harvest." Karenga chose a phrase from Swahili because the language is used by various peoples throughout Africa.

The Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba)
Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa honors a different principle. These principles are believed to have been key to building strong, productive families and communities in Africa. During Kwanzaa, celebrants greet each other with "Habari gani," or "What's the news?" The principles of Kwanzaa form the answers.

The Principles of Kwanzaa

Umoja (oo-MOH-ja)
Meaning: unity
Action: building a community that holds together

Kujichagulia (koo-jee-cha-goo-LEE-yah)
Meaning: self-determination
Action: speaking for yourself and making choices that benefit the community

ujima (oo-JEE-mah)
Meaning: collective work and responsibility
Action: helping others within the community

Ujamaa (oo-JAH-ma)
Meaning: cooperative economics
Action: supporting businesses that care about the community

Nia (nee-AH)
Meaning: a sense of purpose
Action: setting goals that benefit the community

Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah)
Meaning: creativity
Action: making the community better and more beautiful

Imani (ee-MAH-nee)
Meaning: faith
Action: believing that a better world can be created for communities now and in the future

Colorful Celebrations

Families gather for the great feast of karamu on December 31. Karamu may be held at a home, community center, or church. Celebrants enjoy traditional African dishes as well as those featuring ingredients Africans brought to the United States, such as sesame seeds (benne), peanuts (groundnuts), sweet potatoes, collard greens, and spicy sauces.

Especially at karamu, Kwanzaa is celebrated with red, black, and green. These three colors were important symbols in ancient Africa that gained new recognition through the efforts of Marcus Garvey's Black Nationalist movement. Green is for the fertile land of Africa; black is for the color of the people; and red is the for the blood that is shed in the struggle for freedom.

The Seven Symbols

Celebrants decorate with red, black, and green as well as African-style textiles and art. At the heart of Kwanzaa imagery, however, are the seven symbols.

The Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa

Kikombe cha umoja
Meaning: the unity cup
Action: Celebrants drink from this cup in honor of their African ancestors. Before drinking, each person says "harambee," or "let's pull together."

Kinara
Meaning: the candleholder, which holds seven candles
Action: It said to symbolize stalks of corn that branch off to form new stalks, much as the human family is created.

Mazao
Meaning: fruits, nuts, and vegetables
Action: These remind celebrants of the harvest fruits that nourished the people of Africa.

Mishumaa saba
Meaning: the seven candles that represent the seven principles
Action: A different candle is lit each day. Three candles on the left are green; three on the right are red; and in the middle is a black candle.

Mkeka
Meaning: mat
Action: The symbols of Kwanzaa are arranged on the mkeka, which may be made of straw or African cloth. It symbolizes the foundation upon which communities are built.

Vibunzi (plural, muhindi)
Meaning: ear of corn
Action: Traditionally, one ear of corn is placed on the mkeka for each child present.

Zawadi
Meaning: gifts
Action: Traditionally, educational and cultural gifts are given to children on January 1, the last day of Kwanzaa.



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