I am a Christian. I believe the life of Jesus Christ represents a model by which our lives can be conducted. I believe the words that are contained in the Bible are the inspired word of God and through the sacrifice of Christ we all have an opportunity to be forgiven of our sins and enjoy an eternal life based upon our belief in him.
That is what I believe. You may believe differently. That’s OK with me. I believe that decision is a personal one. I share what I believe only because it is foundational to who I am. I celebrate Christmas because it was miraculous intervention in the course of human history that serves as a source of hope to me and many others.
In 1968, I had the opportunity to spend a week-end with Ron Karenga. He had come down to Shaw University to participate in a conference and needed a place to stay. Mike, who was staying with me at the time, offered our rather spartan apartment on Moseley Lane (now in the section called Idlewild/Hungry Neck). I guess the price was right (free) and he decided to come over. That evening he regaled us with his philosophy of KWANZAA and the seven principles. He stated that we should do more than believe, we should commit to action. The end of the year should be more than a time of reflection.
I never in my wildest dreams believed that KWANZAA would explode to its current state of popularity. My first celebration at the old Malcolm X University in Greensboro, followed at the Bennu Cultural Center on Poole Road in Raleigh, and subsequently at the Lester Thomas led events in Cary, helped to familiarize me with principles contained within Kwanzaa. I believe they are worth learning and committed to in the coming year. I share them with you.
Kwanzaa celebrates what Karenga called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba—the seven principles of African Heritage), which he said "is a communitarian African philosophy," consisting of what Karenga called "the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world." These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, as follows:
Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems, and to solve them together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
My wife, Dorothy, and I founded the Umoja house in 1970. It was with the support of John Winters(a Realtor) and Elizabeth Cofield (an elected official). It was a cultural center free to all who would participate. Soon it became a very popular destination. Though the house didn't survive, we made many long term friends there. We were proud of our actions and it led to a lifetime of advocacy for things that affect our community and race.