I have been celebrating Kwanzaa since 2004 and my observance of it sets my mindset for the upcoming year. Every year, I choose one principle from the Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles) and practice embodying that principle throughout the year. Though I initially decided to concentrate on a new principle every year, for the past two years, I have selected Kujichagulia as my main affirmation.
REASON 1: It Stemmed from My Frustration with the First Principle.
I have always gravitated toward this principle for several reasons. The first reason was merely out of frustration from the first principle, Umoja. I did my best to embody Umoja, only to be disappointed repeatedly. Umoja is a wonderful principle and it is not for the weak of heart. Its purpose is to create unity and dissolve division among people of Afrikan descent. I did not have the patience, dedication or willpower to immerse myself in that particular principle.
REASON 2: You Can Make It a Lone Journey
Kujichagulia, however, was a principle that I felt was within my control and energy. It speaks of self-definition. Though the essence of it is to define people of Afrikan descent as a collective people, I interpret it as self-definition for the individual. I always felt empowered when I came across Kujichagulia. My second reason for selecting Kujichagulia is due to the fact that if you are practicing it on a personal level, you do not have to rally others to participate. You do not have to use your time and efforts to persuade, instruct or debate with others. Though I am a rather young woman, I spent a large portion of my youth investing my time, energy and talent into community work. Some days were great and others not so much. Overall it was an experience that added to the development of my individuality in this now moment.
REASON 3: You Can Make It Negative or Positive Based on Your Mindset.
I enjoy concepts that can go in one direction or another. When people of Afrikan descent consider this principle, they view it in a light of positivity. In my opinion, Kujichagulia has a flipside. Define yourself. Name yourself. Create for yourself. Speak for yourself. I had a childhood friend who dreamed of being a model one day. She was teased and misunderstood by her peers, but she still kept her goal plastered in her mind. Today, she is a professional model and is involved in television and print modeling. There was nobody on this earth who could convince her that she wasn't a model. She affirmed what she was. There was a young man I met back in April who defined himself as a thug. He was intelligent but it was not how he defined himself. He said, "I am a thug." I replied, "No, you are a king. Don't call yourself something that is so inadequate." But there was nothing that could be said to sway his mind. "No," he responded, "I am a thug and I am PROUD to be a thug. I'm not a king, I have no throne. I am a thug." What a contrast. One person places her pride in a state of mind that will bring advancement to her life, whereas the other chooses to have confidence in a degenerate state of being. But this is the beauty of free will. You can be almost anything that you desire. "I AM" is a statement of power.
How define ourselves does not affect only ourselves. Having a healthy self-definition will repel toxic situations and people. The effects of racist oppression on the minds of people of Afrikan descent can be thwarted if individually, we change what we call ourselves in our own soul. "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." Out of the depths of self-love, how we treat ourselves and the community will express the love we feel for ourselves. As within, so without.