Ujima! “To build and maintain our community together and to make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.” That said, I wrote this post on the day of Kujichagulia – Self Determination, to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves and so I am going to stay on Kujichagulia today as the issue on my mind -Twitter and social media slander of Kwanzaa- will, unfortunately, stay with us throughout the holiday. The crux of Kujichagulia i.e. self -determination through self- definition, is, for me, about building Pan African power that allows us to have spaces that are free from police brutality and murder, gun violence, to have work spaces where we are using the best of what we know to make change rather than constantly dealing with a system that clearly does not want to produce health & prosperity for Black people. Spaces, as J-Cole says in Be Free, where we take the chains off.
Two nights ago, on the day of Umoja (ironic, right?) – I saw some Twitter slander of Kwanzaa that totally frustrated me. First off, I honestly don’t find how celebrating principles of principled unity (Umoja), creativity (Kuumbaa), self-determination (Kujichagulia) is at all objectionable? What positive or liberatory movement cannot speak of its work in those terms? But Kwanzaa has another project and that is what I suspect is at what drives a lot of the slander and that is to offer these principles in the context of a synthesis of African cultural traditions. I saw a lot of misinformed folks who simply didn’t understand Kwanzaa and had a great deal of anti-African ideas which were behind their criticisms (if you follow me on Twitter @LilGarvey, and scroll down my TL you will see some conversations). So in response, and in the Kwanzaa spirit, I decided to write and contribute on the night of Kujichagulia and add to the discourse on how we can further define, name, create and speak for ourselves.
I think a starting point of Kujichagulia is the restoration of the word Hotep. Black Twitter slander has taken anti-Africanity to a new level by changing Hotep’s Kemetian meaning of “peace” or positive energy and evoking a divine presence (in all honesty Hotep cannot be fully translated in English) to “shallow, fake deep, oppressive woman hating misogynist.” This change in meaning has been so powerful if you google “Hotep” the first page is full of negative Black Twitter references. In many ways, this is the anti-Kujichagulia, we’ve unnamed ourselves and taken a Kemetian word of divinity and used it to represent folks who are expressing harmful misogynistic ideas and thus not peaceful or divine. The Kwanzaa slander followed a similar theme, where people objected to the use of Swahili and argued Kwanzaa was “fake-African,” not widely celebrated, “Hotepian,” and “made up.” First, what holiday isn’t “made up?” Secondly, if all year we argue that we are opposed to divisive homophobic and misogynistic people in the Black Lives Matter movement, aren’t we arguing for Umoja – unity in the family, community, nation and race? We say we want space free of state violence where blackness is not under attack are we not fighting for Kujichagulia? I could go on and do this for each principle, the larger point is let’s not fight for Black liberation in America while rejecting our Africanity.
For more on the importance of language and the health and liberation of African people I highly suggest reading Ngigui Wa Thiong’o’s “Something Torn and Something New,” in which he explains the importance of African language and the liberation of African people.