Umoja (Unity) - Kwanzaa Night #1

Tonight is the first night of Kwanzaa. The Nguzo Saba are the Seven Principles, which are based on values in African culture. The principles are spoken in Swahili and then English. Each night, a candle is lit and a the principle of that day is presented and discussed. If you are looking for a way to share Kwanzaa with your family (to celebrate or to learn more about), you can share the principle at the dinner table or among guests and discuss what this principle means to you, your family, and your community.

December 26th is the first night of Kwanzaa. Tonight's principle is Umoja, or Unity: to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

My thoughts on tonight's principle: Unity has taken on a whole new meaning since my trip to Kenya in August of this year. I have always thought of unity as coming together. Perhaps the naive idea that we can all become one. It took me quite some time to figure out why Kenya felt so different to me and then I realized it was the true meaning of unity. In America, we have to think of unity as coming together because everything is so separate. Animals, people, and nature are divided. People are divided politically, demographically and physically. In Kenya, this type of separation is not as evident. Animals live among people, nature is everywhere. My friend Julius would pull over and offer a ride to an older woman in the town, just because it is the kind thing to do. Their was a unity in Kenya that seems like a necessity to survival. Here, we treat rain like a burden, in Kenya, rain was a blessing and a gift. It left me with the question: does development lead to division?

On this day of Umoja, I would like to commit to connecting back to the earth; to find time to be in nature. I would also like to connect more with those who are special in my life with more than a text or a Facebook post.

Corey, my boyfriend, has never celebrated Kwanzaa before and did not know much about it. It means so much that he is open to celebrating with me and learning about this holiday. Once we lit the first candle, I shared the principle and discussed my views on Unity. I asked him what unity means to him...

He shared that unity is not just a coming together of ideas, but of action. To him, unity is about many different people sharing a mindset and then doing something about it. It is one thing to decide as a group to all want the same thing, but the next step, and arguably the most important step, is to get up and move forward toward that goal. Corey spoke of the long forgotten idea of "the village". There was a time when a child running out in the street was the responsibility of every adult in the neighborhood, not just their parents. That idea of collective responsibility has been lost. Corey said, "It's time to bring back the village!"

Please take the time to think about Unity means to you and perhaps, what one action you can take toward your ideal sense of unity.

Thank you for following along and Happy Kwanzaa!

If you would like to learn more about Kwanzaa, please visit

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