Close your eyes for a moment and imagine your ideal day.
Mine would be to wake up to the brightness of the sunrise and the clashing of the ocean waves and not have to do anything all day except meditate and explore my deepest thoughts with paper and pen in hand.
I’m going to come real close to that ideal day of mine during the four days I plan to spend in Central America, June 20-24, 2019, celebrating my 60th trip around the sun. San Pedro, to be exact. On the island of Ambergris Caye, in the country of Belize.
First of all, I would love to have YOU celebrate alongside me! Mark your calendar; book your flight and come on down. The American dollar is very strong there (for every Belizian dollar, you pay only 50 cents in US dollars). So even though you haven’t had a really long time to plan this trip (it’s still 90 days out, though), it won’t break your bank. I have a beautiful, modern AirBNB apartment that sleeps four for $195 per night. First come, first served, for sharing it with me. There are other nearby inexpensive places as well.
Secondly, your days there can be as laid back or as touristy as you want. You get the best of both worlds. During the time we’re there, San Pedro will be hosting their annual LobsterFest. Even though my actual birthday is May 28th, I delayed going on this trip until LobsterFest because I heard and read about how fun that festival is. Now mind you, as a near-seven-year rawtarian (eating raw, plant-based foods; no meat, no fish) I haven’t eaten lobster in seven or more years. So, I was truly thinking about my lobster-loving friends when including this activity. And who knows? With the clear waters of the Caribbean Sea, I just may try and eat a couple forkfuls of it.
Finally, because journaling on the beach is such a relaxing, self-care, self-reflective thing to do, I thought how appropriate it’d be to engage in this as a group. It’s strictly volunteer, but during our four days spent there, I’m hosting a FREE ($79 value) two-day, four-hour per day journaling session. A time for Writing Out The Storms of your life in such a peaceful place. I’ll provide the journaling sheets, pens and writing exercises–you bring your thoughts, issues and even struggles if you have them (and who doesn’t?).
So, how ’bout it? Are you in? Whether you are or not, comment on my “Contact” page (click CONTACT tab at the top). I have several follow-up emails to send out sharing about where to go and what to do on the island; and all about that famous Chocolate Factory there (mmm mmm).
I’d hate to bombard people in a group email with info they don’t want, so let me hear from you.
P.s. When checking flights, book to Belize City (BZE) only, NOT San Pedro. (Once in Belize, we then take a one-hour water taxis to the island ($27 round trip).) You may still catch some flight deals but hurry, as prices are going up due to LobsterFest. Save time and start with cheaptickets.com (trust me, I’ve spent hours searching around). Also, booking outbound and return flights separately as one-way tickets may save you money like it did for me.
Remember, send me a message on my CONTACT page, letting me know if 1) You’re in Like Flynn, 3) Maybe You’ll Go, or 4) Not at All Interested. Thanks!
You’ve heard the old axiom about how people come into your life: for a reason, a season or a lifetime, right? Well, I have known Les Brown, one of the greatest motivational speakers of our time, throughout many seasons; for various reasons; and through it all, I believe both our working relationship and friendship will last a lifetime.
Las Vegas, 2018.
Working in the Chicago office of Les Brown Enterprises, LLC., as his Executive Administrator and Senior Writer in 2007 and 2008, and still today as his Writing Consultant/Ghostwriter, has certainly not been a chance arrangement by this Universe. No, it was definitely a destined occurrence along my life’s journey;an occurrence, no doubt, orchestrated by God. How do I know this? Because out of all the people in the world, I was the one purposed with delivering a piece of vital information to Les that would literally change the dynamics of a portion of his personal life. That’s all I’m going to say about that right now. If you haven’t heard me or him tell the story then you’ll just have to wait for me to share it in one of my books down the road.
Right now, in honor of Les’ 74th solar return on February 17th, I wanted to share a little “Vintage Les.” The time period: early to mid 1970’s. The location: Columbus, Ohio. As a high-schooler, I woke up every weekday morning to pink bedroom walls and the trendy hip hop sounds of R&B amplified through my alarm clock radio. Disc jockey Les, and Columbus’ soulful radio station, WVKO, were synonymous back in the day.
We knew and loved him as Les Brown, The Man About Town; that Platter-Playing Pappa who didn’t just deliver great tunes for our enjoyment but “spit” a great message of hope and determination into our ears as well. A message that took him all the way to winning a seat in the Ohio State House of Representative, where he passed more bills than any other junior state legislator.
However, there was one very brief message of his that I remembered most as a teenager: “Get up, up, up!” It reverberated daily, in a rich baritone manner. He said it often, between his cajoling and song playing. As a morning DJ one would think he was saying “Get up” as in get out of bed and get to school or work. After following him from afar and up close for 46 years now, I know for a fact, “Get up” was a message that was bigger than most of us at that time. Who knows, maybe even bigger than Les, himself? Either way, it was a message every young black boy and girl needed to hear to prepare for solid footing in that great big unjust real world awaiting their arrival. Every black adult needed to hear it as encouragement to stand strong, stay knowledgeable and remain uplifted knowing.
Those words were telling us that when life knocks us down–and it will–we had to learn how to fall on our backs becauseif we can look up, then we can get up. Those words assured us to stay in the game and know that it ain’t over until we win. Oh, those old messages just keep on giving! He’s still hitting us with new profound quotes today.
If your day, today, hasn’t been instantly made a little happier and a little brighter, it’s because you haven’t heard Les Brown’s voice. Give it a try right now–even for just five minutes. Google any of his books, CDs, or his PBS specials, “You Deserve” and “It’s Possible.” Check out his multitude of videos on YouTube. And if you’ve not had the privilege of hearing him at all (BTW, where have you been? Living under a rock?), you will be blessed to listen to his Georgia Dome speech from back in the 90’s where he spoke to a crowd of 80,000 people. Wow! And a cheering crowd at that!
There are also many famous and motivating quotes by Les. One only has to put in the words “Les Brown quotes” in a web browser and a multitude are at your fingertips. One that sticks out to me is one that I’ve heard him say often–not from a stage but directly to me, or to someone else. That is, “How you do anything, is how you do everything.” To this day, I strive to live by that powerful statement.
Here are some photos I gathered off the Internet of Les back in the day: 1970’s and 80’s–his early days of making his indelible mark upon this planet. When all seemed impossible–given his poor and humble beginnings as an infant; the crippling mislabeling of educable mentally retarded cast upon him as a child; and his supposed disadvantaged non-college-degreed start into the business world–he made it possible! Was it hard for him? He answers that in his speeches with a resounding “Yes!” Was it necessary? He would say with even more fervid compassion, “Yes!”
Here’s to you, Mrs. Mamie Brown’s Baby Boy.
Happy 74th birthday!!
You are right, Les… there were none before you and there will certainly be none after you,
so please stay HUNGRY and stay around with us for a long, long time.
There’s a new “sheriff” of healthiness in your town and you probably don’t even know it. It’s a Farmer’s Market style grocery store called Fresh Thyme and, in my humble opinion, offers more true vegan options than Whole Foods. It’s less expensive to boot. I say “true vegan options” because if you look closely, not everything in Whole Foods is healthy. You may think it is simply by its name but read those labels and you’ll discover otherwise. Speaking of labels…you should ABC (ALWAYS BE CHECKING) those labels in any store where you’re purchasing items to put inside your precious body–your temple.
“The mission of Fresh Thyme is healthy food at healthy values,” said Corky Anderson, regional director of operations for the Downers Grove, Illinois-based company. “We allow more people to have access to change their lifestyle (by eating healthy) by making it affordable.”
I found Fresh Thyme in my home city of Columbus, Ohio. My sister told me about it on one of my visits there and I’m so glad I went. Wonderful selections to help keep you on a fast track to healthy eating. The grocer stocks more than 400 bulk food items like coffees, grains, nuts, snack mixes, oils and vinegars. They produce their own bakery products and other healthy foods such as bottled fresh juices and fruit-infused waters. You’ll also find things like a salad bar and olive and antipasti bar, as well as a large selection of gluten-free foods throughout the store. Its meat department focuses on natural, hormone-free products. You’ll even find some guilty pleasures like Ben and Jerry’s ice cream but you won’t find Captain Crunch (to which your organs would say, “Thank goodness!”).
A new Fresh Thyme is scheduled to open here in Nevada soon but still about an hour or so away from Las Vegas where I reside. So, no hope for me shopping there in person on a regular basis but, fortunately, if you live within the vicinity of one of their Midwest markets you can shop with them online and have your items delivered to your home: FreshThyme.com. There, in addition to the right foods and products to bless your soul, you’ll enjoy weekly ads, digital coupons and tasty recipes.
Here’s one product in particular I was grateful to have purchased from Fresh Thyme: Hemp Oil made from hemp seeds.
Why hemp seed?
Hemp seeds are derived from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. This is the same species as cannabis (marijuana) but a different variety. Scientific studies have shown your immune system depends heavily on the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp seeds are a good source of polyunsaturated and essential fatty acids. Below are just six of the many ways the seeds (and oil) of this plant can greatly benefit you.
6 Benefits of Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds contain over 30% fat–good fats. Two of these essential fatty acids are linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). A third one is gamma-linolenic acid, which studies have linked to several health benefits. Hemp seeds are a great protein source as well, with more than 25% of their total calories from high-quality protein.
Reduces risk of heart disease
Hemp seeds contain high amounts of arginine, an amino acid that produces nitric oxide in your body . Nitric oxide is a gas molecule that makes your blood vessels dilate and relax, leading to lowered blood pressure, hence a reduced risk of heart disease and a quicker recovery after a heart attack. Hemp seeds reduce inflammation, which decreases heart disease risk as well.
May benefit skin disorders
If suffering from eczema, the essential fatty acids of hemp seeds improve blood levels which then relieves your dry skin. It’s also been known to improve itchiness, thereby, eliminating the need for skin medication.
Great source of plant-based protein
By weight, hemp seeds provide the same amounts of protein as beef and lamb. So, 30 grams of hemp seeds, or 2–3 tablespoons, provide about 11 grams of protein. As a complete protein source, they provide all the essential amino acids your body needs and cannot be produced from your diet. Hemp seeds contain significant amounts of the amino acids methionine and cysteine, as well as very high levels of arginine and glutamic acid. Its protein’s digestibility is better than protein from many grains, nuts and legumes.
Reduces symptoms of PMS and menopause
Studies have shown premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause symptoms to be caused by sensitivity to the hormone prolactin. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), found in hemp seeds, produces prostaglandin E1, which reduces the effects of prolactin. It decreases breast pain and tenderness, depression, irritability and fluid retention associated with PMS.
Aids in digestion
Whole hemp seeds are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, containing 20% and 80%, respectively. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in your gut making it a valuable source of nutrients for beneficial digestive bacteria. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool to help food and waste pass through your gut. However, beware that de-hulled or shelled hemp seeds — also known as hemp hearts — contain very little fiber because the fiber-rich shell has been removed. Hemp seeds helping in the digestion process reduces spikes in blood sugar, reduces the risk of diabetes and regulates cholesterol levels.
And speaking of cholesterol…
A quick note on cholesterol
Here’s a new study regarding cholesterol that Chef Keidi Awadu brought to his social media’s attention a couple days ago:
Forget Cholesterol: This Looks Like the Blood Test that Really Predicts How Long You’ll Live
For instance, research at the University of Copenhagen shows that having a very high HDL level – the “good” cholesterol that is supposed to protect against heart and artery problems and improve your health – actually can increase your risk of dying from heart disease and other causes.
During this six-year Danish study of 116,000 people, men with the highest HDLs had a 106 percent increased risk of dying compared to men with a lower HDL measurement. Women with the highest amounts of HDL experienced a 68 percent increased chance of dying.1
“These results radically change the way we understand ‘good’ cholesterol,” says researcher Børge Nordestgaard. “Doctors like myself have been used to congratulating patients who had a very high level of HDL in their blood. But we should no longer do so, as this study shows a dramatically higher mortality rate.”
I bid farewell to you! You, who stifled and suffocated—even snuffed out—so much talent, potential, and greatness within me; keeping it buried inside while robbing the world of it. I bid farewell to the shyness, the uncertainty of speech and dialogue for fear that my answers would be wrong, my opinions judged harshly, or my outlook on life not in line with the “norm” or status quo (however, now I know staying away from the norm is a good thing!). From my current day posture, with nearly 60 years of getting through this thing called life, I empathize with you and dislike you simultaneously.
Recently, a former college buddy shared a brief 1979 film promoting Ohio University. He alerted me to the fact that I’m actually in that film! No sound during the 20 second-or-so footage of me talking, but still pretty dope!
In viewing that film, I can clearly see me speaking with shyness and timidity—not boldness and surety. Wow. What insight. How cool to be able to see me candidly on film during that moment 40 years ago.
It’s a new day. No longer, Past Me, are my words hidden inside for none to hear or read. No longer am I afraid to look right into the camera. I do so often now, grinning ear to ear to let the world know that yes, I’m happy, I’m joyful and I have a beautiful smile to express it.
I guess I was beautiful back then. I was kind, as well. I’m proud of those characteristics. I was also rather reserved and far from promiscuous during my college years. I can definitely be proud of that! I was very smart, pulling straight A’s my freshman year while many classmates were not adjusting so well to the privilege of no parental rules to keep them studying instead of partying. Yes, I can pat my back for that.
Yet, Past Me never really felt beautiful or accomplished. Past Me was never enough. That’s perhaps why–as these photos show–I didn’t smile much.
At times, Present Me takes on that same burden of feeling less than beautiful and unaccomplished. That is until the wonderful people I surround myself with remind me otherwise.
Finally, thanks a lot, Past Me, for causing my artistic drawing and painting skills to drift away into a sea of doubt. Gratefully, though, a love for writing emerged in their place; albeit held to a minimum until age 40 when an illness canceled me out of Corporate America giving way to a fulltime writing hobby—a hobby that grew into a successful 18-year ghostwriting stint. I thank God for that.
Present Me has endured this journey of phases, shifts, eclipses, and enlightenment.
I’m probably creating “Future Me 5.0” by now with maybe 4 or 5 more versions to go before I’m truly satisfied. But that’s okay because Present Me is filled with self-love, self-respect, self-worth and a lot of work towards self-care.
So, again, goodbye once and for all, Past Me! Watch out, Present Me! Future Me is on the fast track!
Ps. In case you’re interested, here’s that 1979 promotional film:
…and to think most people don’t know it even exists. To say “most people” may be an exaggeration but I don’t think it would be too far a cry from the truth as this place is so hidden—literally right under the Golden Gate Bridge.
I lived in San Francisco back in the 80’s and have visited it many times thereafter but never heard of this wonderful historic site until my most recent visit during the 4th of July holiday, visiting my son, now a Bay Area resident. I had Googled best sites to watch the fireworks and Fort Point came up. I began reading about it and was very intrigued. While we didn’t go there for the fireworks (chose Crissy Field instead, which was an excellent spot), I made it a point to put Fort Point on our to-do list when my daughter joined us a couple days later. And boy, was I glad we went!
View from atop Fort Point. That arch structure above is the bottom of the Golden Gate Bridge.
A Golden Treasure
In 1933, as foundation construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge, this now 157-year-old fort was right smack in the way and therefore scheduled to meet its demise. Because of its excellent military architecture, the American Institute of Architects had proposed preservation of Fort Point in 1926 but funds were not available to carry out that gesture. At the threat of its removal, Joseph Strauss, Chief Engineer of the bridge project, redesigned the Golden Gate Bridge to be built over Fort Point; thereby, saving the structure. How cool is that?
On October 16, 1970, President Nixon signed the bill making Fort Point a National Historic Site. After sustaining only moderate damage in the devastating 7.9 level San Francisco earthquake in 1906, this building’s use over the next 40 years was for barracks, military training and storage. Then, during World War II, soldiers from the US Coast Artillery were stationed there to guard minefields and anti-submarine net. It currently serves to guard the Golden Gate Bridge and to welcome hundreds of guests daily, most days of the year.
Here’s a brief history of how this masterpiece came to be, without ever really serving its initial purpose…
A funny thing happened on the way to war
Between 1817 and 1867, to protect United States harbors, the coastal defense system built some 30 forts along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and only one—Fort Point—on the West Coast. California had just become the 31st state in 1850, after the US won the Mexican-American war in 1848. During that time, the US Army and Navy officials had set up strategic points to secure the San Francisco Bay. Those points consisted of Lime Point, Angel Island, Alcatraz, Point San Jose, Presidio and Fort Point.
However, construction on Fort Point didn’t began until 1853, at the outbreak of the Civil War, by the US Army Corps of Engineers. A 90-foot cliff at the entrance to the San Francisco Bay was blasted 30 feet below sea level to make way for the fort’s foundation. In 1861, 200 previously unemployed miners, who labored for eight years on this project, finally mounted the fort’s first cannon. It was the US Army’s most sophisticated coastal fortification, yet this massive, impenetrable brick-walled structure, with new artillery including 102 smooth-bore cannons mounted atop, never saw action.
In August 1865, the captain and crew of the Confederate raider, C.S.S. Shenandoah prowled the waters of the Pacific looking for Yankee whaling ships. They planned an attack on San Francisco. On their way to the harbor, the captain was informed by a British vessel that the South had lost and the Civil War was now over. Whew! Talk about being saved by the bell.
So, there you have it
To this day, Fort Point, an impressive survivor of weather and war, remains the admiration and pride of the Pacific Coast. Standing inside its massive and unscathed courtyard was quite humbling–especially when thinking about the labor required to build this and the eight million bricks that perfectly hold it together a century and a half later.
Wow! Fort Point. Certainly a point of interest worthy of your visit.
Terri Liggins, aka t-RAW
Reach And Win your transition to a healthier, wealthier you!
On this Father’s Day, let me just say this…
Too often dads get such a bad rap. They didn’t do this when we were growing up, or they did too much of that. Well, I personally think it’s time to lighten up on dads. We know they’re not wired like mothers so why are we trying to compare the two? In doing so, fathers are almost always going to fall short and that’s just not fair.
Dads are terrific when left in their own league–left to express themselves in the way they know best. They’re typically not going to be as loving and sensitive as you’d like but yet, they show their affection in other ways like providing substance. Why can’t THAT be enough? Acceptable? Redeeming?
I don’t know about other dads, but here’s what I know about mine…
He didn’t change not one single diaper (so the story goes) of any of us five kids. Waa, waa, waa. But you know what? Here’s what he WAS doing as a young 20- to 27-year old while all these babies were being born and needing diapers changed:
1) Finishing his undergraduate degree
2) Then working on his master’s degree
3) Pastoring not one, but two, start-up churches
4) Working full time at the post-office on his feet all day
5) Keeping a roof over our head and food on the table
He didn’t hug us every single day and didn’t say “I love you.” Waa, waa, waa. But you know what?
1) He never cheated on my mom
2) We didn’t have to find out later in life we have siblings we never knew about
3) He cared about our education
4) He kept a roof over our head and food on the table
He was very strict and spanked us a lot. Waa, waa, waa. (No, really, waa, waa, waa because those beatings hurt like hell!). But, here’s what we have to show for that.
1) Not one single child out of five was ever suspended from school for bad behavior
2) Not one single child ever became addicted to drugs or alcohol
3) Not one single child ever served jail time
4) All five studied some college courses
5) Three of the five were in college at the same time
6) Two of the five have gone on to receive secondary college degrees
7) All five became gainfully employed right out of high school (and even during high school to varying degrees) and have remained employed or with their own business since then
8) All five have learned to keep a roof over our families’ heads and food on the table
He wasn’t home a lot and rarely made it to my school events because, after all, he had a lot of church people and issues to tend to. We didn’t have a lot of money because he was “called” into a profession where “money for yourself” is not your main focus (well, not for some pastors, anyway). We ate more than our fair share of beans and franks and we always had to share bedrooms BUT he always kept a roof over our head and food on the table.
I’ve written many books for many clients who had drug-addicted parents, or were subjected to incest and physical abuse, or never even saw their dad. Not because he was out helping other people but because he was in the streets and sleeping with other women. If I were to whine about the things my parents didn’t do for me to these people, they’d look at me like I was an ungrateful, selfish little you-know-what! Therefore, I am very grateful for the parents I have.
I know my father is not perfect but he is and has been perfect for me. I try not to blame him and others for my previous low self-esteem and lack of confidence. I will just say, “Thank you, Dad, for everything!”
This day, and every day forward, I’m setting a precedent to accept my father as the king that he is. To not focus on his short-comings but appreciate him for the numerous good things he’s done for me and on my behalf. Driving me to/from that special art class I was enrolled in when I was very, very young. Picking me up at 12 midnight every weeknight, from my college summer job instead of making me take a bus home. Sending me money in college whenever I needed it when a lot of times it was simply to cover my long distance phone bill due to calls to my boyfriend. There’s so much more!
Here’s a good rule we can all follow when dealing with ANYONE:
A little less coal-raking; A lot more whole-making.
Before I show you how, consider this:
All the activities of the brain and the nervous system depend on the full functionality of the lungs. Wow. Have you ever given that much thought to the lungs? I hadn’t until I was forced to when 19 years ago I was diagnosed with a serious autoimmune disorder that affected my lungs. Prior to that, I think–like most people–I took my lungs, and breathing, for granted.
It is for this reason, we should make breathing more of a conscious effort and in the process take back control of our health. Our Creator gave us dominion over all “things” in the Earth; our health being one of those things –a MAJOR THING at that.
So humming, scientists have found, is an effective tool for managing the breath; hence, our overall health. For instance, to keep the sinuses healthy and free from infection, there must be smooth air flow between the sinus and nasal cavity. Studies have shown that while humming, nitric oxides, a gas produced in the sinuses, rose 15-fold. At proper levels, nitric oxide helps boost the flow of oxygenated blood to the muscle and reduces the amount of lactic acid in the body.
Here’s a short video I made a couple years ago after learning about humming for health. Pretty funny how I wasn’t able to do the simpliest of tasks.
The Proper Way To Hum To Reap The Benefits
Audrey Hunt, professional singer and voice coach, says there is a correct way to hum to reap its benefits. Put your lips together gently and hum a sound. Now, check for the following:
Make sure the lips are barely touching to help you to feel light vibrations.
The teeth should be apart.
The tongue must lay flat in the bed of the mouth and relaxed.
The vibrations will be felt mostly in the upper lip. You may also experience a buzzing feeling in areas around the mouth. (Teeth, hard palate, forehead or top of the head.) This is what you want.
If the vibrations extend throughout the nasal area and even in the cheeks give yourself a pat-on-the-back.
You are humming correctly. Continue humming and notice how the busy self-talk stops.
If you fail to feel any buzzing or vibrations, you are holding too much tension in your lips. Relax the neck head and shoulder areas.
Feels good, right? Now, try it again.
As I mentioned before, God gave us control over our health. We tend to make managing it such a difficult task when it doesn’t have to be. Just start one breath at a time.
Terri, The Friendly Ghostwriter, aka t-RAW
Reach And Win your transition to a healthier wealthier you! Once you’ve reached your magnificent goals, help out someone else by sharing your story.
With permission, I'm re-posting this Facebook post a good friend of mine shared while in South America.
Adopting a nice custom from Argentina and Uruguay: Yerba Mate tea in a Mate Gourd made from glass and steel and a bombilla (metal straw)!
This tea comes from the South American rainforest evergreen holly tree and is great for digestion, energy, mental alertness, and is loaded with vitamins and minerals! It can also improve immune function, aid weight loss, and has anti-cancer compounds!
Yerba Mate is said to have the strength of coffee, benefits of herbal tea, and euphoria of chocolate! It was called the "drink of the gods" by indigenous South Americans. It's a bit like green tea - just better. I'd say bring it on!
Thanks, Ina, for sharing this information! I'm familiar with this tea but have never tried it. Now, though, I will. Hope you do, too!
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Would you agree we could use more Unity in our society today?
Would you agree that Self-Determination leads to creations, inventions?
Would you agree that Collective Work & Responsibility improves communities?
Would you agree that Cooperative Economics encourages prosperity?
Would you agree that having a Purpose is necessary to achieve goals?
Would you agree that Creativity is a positive force towards betterment?
Would you agree that Faith can move mountains?
If you answered “yes” to one or all of the above, then you just ascribed to the principles of Kwanzaa.
Kwanzaa is a festive and meaningful holiday we celebrate each year in my household. Much to my chagrin, for most of my adult life, I never took the time to learn what Kwanzaa was, let alone celebrate it. I don’t have a good answer as to why I didn’t, other than just pure ignorance of how it related to me. That is why I now love sharing the basics of this holiday so others don’t have to remain in the dark as I was for so long.
What is Kwanzaa?
Kwanzaa is a week-long African American cultural celebration held in the United States from December 26 through January 1. The name is derived from matunda ya kwanza, a Swahili phrase that means “first fruits.”Based on traditional African harvest festivals, combining various cultural customs, this holiday, observed by over 18 million people, has reached its 50th anniversary of existence this year.
Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, nor does it replace Christmas. Instead, it was created during the black movement of the mid 1960s to combat the commercialism of Christmas by honoring our African heritage and culture with the seven basic principles, expressed in Swahili as nguzo saba. These principles are actually applicable to everyday life, not just at Christmastime.
How is Kwanzaa observed?
Together, the family observes daily rituals which include lighting candles, making Kwanzaa gifts, planning special theme meals, dressing in traditional garb and honoring ancestors and elders. A table remains set with an array of fresh fruits. In the center of the table is a kinara, a candleholder for seven candles.
In the kinara are three green candles on the right side, three red candles on the left side and one black candle in the center. Green stands for the fertile land of Africa. Red symbolizes the bloodshed spilled in the struggle for freedom. Black is for the color of the people. The family gathers around as one candle is lit each day, beginning with the outer most candles, working inward to the center. As the candle is lit, that day’s corresponding principle is spoken of.
A great gathering of food and guests is held on December 31. It is called the karamu. Celebrants donned in vibrantly-colored traditional African attire enjoy cultural dishes, typically using ingredients brought to the United States from the motherland, such as sesame seeds (benne), peanuts (groundnuts), sweet potatoes, collard greens and spicy sauces.
New Year’s Day is the final day of the Kwanzaa holiday. Traditionally, educational and cultural gifts are given to children on this final day of celebration.
7 Principles of Kwanzaa
Day 1: Umoja! (oo–MO–jah)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race. Whether in the home or the workplace, teamwork promotes unity. It is important to the ongoing success and longevity of the family unit or company, the community that family or company serves, and the state and country in which they reside.
Day 2: Kujichagulia! (koo–gee–cha–goo–LEE–yah)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves. Instead of being defined, named, created for and spoken for by others. We must plug into our self-worth. We have to be determined and stay determined to make a positive difference in our life’s journey — whether a child or adult; male or female; working at a nine-to-five job or as a self-employed entity.
Day 3: Ujima! (oo–GEE–mah)
Means: 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. We are all fingers on a hand in this journey called life. There are so many ways we can reach out and help others; doing so is simply easier when organized through group effort.
Day 4: Ujamaa! (oo–JAH–mah)
Means: Cooperative Economics
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together. What better way to instill pride in something than through ownership? This is important for our global economy and so very empowering to ourselves.
Day 5: Nia! (nee–YAH)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community to restore our people to their traditional greatness. If we don’t ever learn the truth about our history of our ancestors or kings and queens who ruled entire empires, how can we ever set clear, positive goals for our own lives that awaken the greatness within ourselves and the tremendous potential that lies therein? We then can set goals that benefit the whole community.
Day 6: Kuumba! (koo–OOM–bah)
To always do as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. We must use our time, creativity, finances and resources to make our community out of just survival mode and into massive productivity.
Day 7: Imani! (ee–MAH–nee)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle. We must believe that a better world can be created both now and in the future
7 Symbols of Kwanzaa
Kikombe cha umoja.
Means: the unity cup
Celebrants drink from this cup in honor of their African ancestors. Before drinking, each person says “harambee,” which means, “let’s pull together.”
Means: the candleholder that holds seven candles
This symbolizes stalks of corn that branch off to form new stalks, the same way the human family recreates and branches off.
Means: the seven candles that represent the seven principles
Three candles on the left are green; three on the right are red; and in the middle is a black candle. A different candle is lit each day.
Means: fruits, nuts and vegetables
This type of food reminds celebrants of the harvest fruits that nourished the people of Africa.
The mkeka, made of straw or African cloth, symbolizes the foundation upon which communities are built. The various symbols of Kwanzaa are arranged upon it.
Vibunzi. (plural, muhindi)
Means: ear of corn
Traditionally, one ear of corn for each child in the family is placed on the mkeka.
The gifts that are shared are traditionally only educational in nature and/or handmade.
What’s the Word?
So, there you have it — your crash course in Kwanzaa! One last thing … Kwanzaa participants throughout the week greet each other with this question: “Habari gani?” That is Swahili for “What’s the word?” When asked this question, you excitedly respond with one word: the Swahili principle for that day.
Now that you know, I challenge you to greet a new person each day starting December 26, with “Habari gani?” and let the good news begin!