Kwanzaa Set-UpDuring Kwanzaa, ever since I was young, my father always puts on the Kawaida album by Mtume, Herbie Hancock, et al. (link after the jump).  We sit around the fireplace with the requisite Kwanzaa items: kinara (candle holder); mkeka (straw mat); vibunzi (ears of corn); kikomba cha umoja (unity cup); and last, but not least, zawadi (gifts). We pour juice into the kikomba cha umoja and talk about the principle of the day.

It didn’t occur to me that other families would not eventually catch on to this tradition.  So, welcome to my virtual house.

Umoja: Unity

From my dictionary app –

unity |ˈyo͞onətē|

noun (pl. unities)

1 the state of being united or joined as a whole

• the state of forming a complete and pleasing whole, especially in an artistic context

• a thing forming a complex whole

• in Aristotle’s Poetics, each of the three dramatic principles requiring limitation of the supposed time of a drama to that occupied in acting it or to a single day (unity of time), use of one scene throughout (unity of place), and concentration on the development of a single plot (unity of action).

2 Mathematics chiefly Brit. the number one.

Since the 60’s, when Kwanzaa was created, technological advances have made unity across the world more possible than ever.  We can get together not only because of where we live or where we’re from, but based on a favorite band or a favorite food.  We can meet across the world in person and online.  We can start a movement in our home or join a movement in another state.  We can create and collaborate virtually.  And we can share these creations locally.

When I think of Umoja, I think of all the different makers and artists I know who build from the ground up, continually.  I think of their amazing minds coordinating and pulling new ideas out of the ether weaving the fabric of every day.  I also think about all the families I know of different shapes and sizes, all working together to build better lives for themselves.

I think about how we can use technology to trace our families back through time, pulling together the histories of billions of humans all the way back to our original African mother.

Then I go totally micro.  I start thinking about each atom in my body working with all the other atoms to make microorganisms, and those microorganisms working together to create muscle and bone and blood and veins and body.  And this body working with other bodies to create community and each community working together to form larger communities and, eventually, to create our world. Then I go all the way out to worlds making star systems, making galaxies, making a universe.  And then maybe each universe is an atom inside yet another body.  All working together.

What I like about the ambiguity of Umoja as a principle is that it keeps my mind open.  I can think about the unity within my own body, the unity I have with my family, or the community or with the world.  And with that, let’s sip from the unity cup and shout: