Kwanzaa Day 1: Umoja Candle Lighting

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Happy Kwanzaa!  Today, December 26, begins another chapter in   the wonderful annual celebration of family and community designed to help African Americans reconnect with our African roots, values, and heritage. The celebration of Kwanzaa is animated by the Seven Principles of the Nguzo Saba.


In 2008, Community Healing Network (CHN) originated the Emotional Emancipation (EE) Circle process to help Black people heal from the trauma caused specifically by the centuries-old lie that Black people are inferior: the root cause of the devaluing of Black lives and the distinct challenges we face as a people. The EE Circle process was developed by CHN in collaboration with the Association of Black Psychologists, and is animated by  Seven Keys to Emotional Emancipation.  


 Not surprisingly, there are connections between CHN’s Seven Keys and the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa. Over the next seven days, we will draw attention to those connections.



Today, December 26,  we light the Umoja candle. Umoja means “unity” in Kiswahili and refers to unity in every aspect of life: unity within one’s family, unity within one’s neighborhood,  unity within the local, national and global community of people of African Ancestry.


On this first day of Kwanzaa, we want to draw attention to how Key 6 of the Seven Keys to Emotional Emancipation connects with lighting the Unity/Umoja candle. Key 6: “Our African Cultural Imperative” reminds us that =-:” The collective/community is the basis for what is good, normal, and right about us.”


Our collective cultural wisdom as people of African Ancestry resists the western-eurocentric culture of individualism which often determines a “successful life” by the accumulation of accomplishments, degrees, finances, and fame. Today, in the spirit of Umoja, may we choose to live into and out of the truth found in the words of South African Bishop of Johannesburg, Desmond Tutu: “My humanity is bound up in yours for we can only be human together. “


Action Step: 


Today, on the first day of Kwanzaa, CHN encourages you to reach out to someone in your life who has played a role in getting you to where you are today. Call, text, email, or send a handwritten note of gratitude to that person in the spirit of Umoja (Unity) and Ubuntu (I am because We are).

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