Healing as an Anchor for the Nguzo Saba

How emotional emancipation helped me to sustain Kwanzaa’s principles throughout 2020

2020 has been a difficult year for most. January of last year was full of promise – all which began to unravel near the end of the first quarter. It all started with a rare, devastating tornado that hit my residential city of Nashville. While rebuilding the pieces of shattered homes and businesses, a global pandemic swept our nation – resulting in lockdowns, school closures, and economic upheaval, all while many, many people contracted, continued to spread, and lost their lives to this virus. And not to mention the racial pandemic that Black people have been battling since a couple of forevers. The unjust murders of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Oluwatoyin Salau George Floyd, and unfortunately many more, showed us that, even in 2020, we still have quite the distance to go. 

That’s why I’m looking forward to Kwanzaa. There’s something about reclaiming our joy through celebration. And although festivities will look different this year (many are taking Kwanzaa to the virtual space), this holiday season especially is an opportunity for deep reflection as we move forward. 

This year, I’m examining how emotional emancipation, reclaiming our human dignity as people of African ancestry, supports the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or the Nguzo Saba, which are the personal and social values that support our moral community. The Nguzo Saba is an archetype for both personal and collective liberation and they are far-reaching principles that should not only be observed during Kwanzaa’s weeklong celebration, but can be used as the building blocks of life. 

However, in order to fully execute the Nguzo Saba, you must first be emotionally emancipated— completely freed from the lie of White superiority and Black inferiority–or working diligently towards it. Abiding by these principles – unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith – happens after taking back “our human dignity as people of African ancestry.” 

And how else can emotional healing be achieved? Learn about the basics of emotional emancipation here. As you can see, the freedom to see ourselves in the best light requires lots of learning and unlearning. I still have many hurdles to jump in my own quest for complete healing, but I’m enlightened by the power of emancipation and how it manifests in our lives, especially in the face of hard times. 

Here is how my own emotional healing anchored the Nguzo Saba during this tough year:

  1. Umoja – Because of the pandemic, our village was only accessible online. But I made sure to incorporate lots of family and community gatherings as best I could. 
  2. Kujichagulia – 2020 was the epitome of self-determination. Flexibility in work schedules, teaching our child at home. Lots of pivots. I didn’t always know how everything would get done, but I was intent on making it happen. 
  3. Ujima – The rebuilding Black neighborhoods and sourcing community help after the tornado and throughout the pandemic. 
  4. Ujaama – In our home, we prioritize supporting Black-owned businesses. As the restaurant industry suffered because of the pandemic, our dollars went to supporting local Black-owned food establishments and independent bookstores. 
  5. Nia – I participated in many virtual writing workshops to enhance craft with the simultaneous goal of fellowship with other Black writers. 
  6. Kuumba – As a family, we attended a socially-distanced Outdoor Afro event that included beautification of a community garden.
  7. Imani – One of my core affirmations this year was this: I am planting the seeds. While this year was incredibly hard, I believe that the seeds of continuous change have been planted.

I challenge you to make the vital connection between emotional emancipation and Kwanzaa’s seven principles as well. Think about how they both have helped you through 2020 and how emotional healing and the Nguzo Saba can guide you for many years to come. 

As a people, we surely haven’t seen the last of difficult times. But we can better approach life’s ebbs and flows with the powerful combination of emotional emancipation and the Nguzo Saba. As you’re assembling the kinara or preparing for a virtual karamu, remember to think about how emotional healing can be used to anchor Kwanzaa’s principles throughout the entire year. The strength of our individual selves, families, communities, and our liberation depends on it.

We invite you to join CHNConnect to connect, learn, heal, and grow together.

By Tonya Abari

We invite you to join our virtual emotional emancipation circle on CHNConnect to connect, learn, heal, and grow together as people of Black African ancestry.

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Umoja (Unity)Healing will come when I reach out, reach up, reach back, and reach within.