Wednesday, 21 October 2009


Principles of Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa is seven days of Pan-African celebrations of family, community and culture. Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder, Maulana Karenga, called "The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa," or Nguzo Saba. Maulana Karenga said that Kwanzaa "is a communitarian African philosophy" … “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 principles of family, community and culture. Celebrated for seven days at the end of the old year and the start of the new, that is, from 26 December to 1 January, Kwanzaa origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits" in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.
In Africa, there are many customs that are common among the various ethnic groups found on the continent. One of these is the celebration of the harvest. At this time of the year, friends, family and community come together to celebrate and give thanks for their good fortune. Working towards a successful harvest is a communal effort, as is the celebration. Kwanzaa is a Swahili word that means "first" and signifies the first fruits of the harvest. Many people of African descent across the globe celebrate Kwanzaa, not instead of the Christian holiday but as well as. The basic principles of the harvest celebrations in Africa are to create the observance of Kwanzaa. Africans today do not live in an agricultural setting. Nonetheless, these basic principles found in producing the harvest are vital to building and maintaining strong and wholesome communities. Kwanzaa is that time when we reflect on our use of the basic principles, share and enjoy the fruits of our labour, and recommit ourselves to the collective achievement of a better life for our family, our community, and our people.
The first-fruits celebrations are recorded in African history as far back as ancient Egypt and Nubia and appear in ancient and modern times in other classical African civilizations, such as Ashantiland and Yorubaland. These celebrations are also found in ancient and modern times among societies as large as empires (the Zulu or kingdoms (Swaziland) or smaller societies and groups like the Matabele, Thonga and Lovedu, all of south-eastern Africa. Kwanzaa builds on the five fundamental activities of Continental African "first fruit" celebrations: ingathering; reverence; commemoration; recommitment; & celebration. It is
1. a time of ingathering of the people to reaffirm the bonds between them;
2. a time of special reverence for the creator and creation in thanks and respect for the blessings, bountifulness and beauty of creation;
3. a time for commemoration of the past in pursuit of its lessons and in honour of its models of human excellence, our ancestors;
4. a time of recommitment to our highest cultural ideals in our ongoing effort to always bring forth the best of African cultural thought and practice; and
5. a time for celebration of the Good, the good of life and of existence itself, the good of family, community and culture, the good of the awesome and the ordinary, in a word the good of the divine, natural and social.
African British Kwanzaa
Rooted in this ancient history and culture, Kwanzaa develops as a flourishing branch of the African British life and struggle as a recreated and expanded ancient tradition. Kwanzaa in Britain, unlike the USA, is not celebrated as a public holiday but nevertheless the celebrations if vibrant in the African-centred families and communities. Kwanzaa draws from the cultures of various African peoples, and is celebrated by millions of Africans throughout the world African community. Moreover, these various African peoples celebrate Kwanzaa because it speaks not only to African Britons in a special way, but also to Africans as a whole, in its stress on history, values, family, community and culture.
Kwanzaa in the African British context was established in 1966 in the midst of the Black Freedom Movement and thus reflects its concern for cultural groundedness in thought and practice, and the unity and self-determination associated with this. It was conceived and established to serve several functions, such as:
Reaffirming and Restoring Culture
First, Kwanzaa was created to reaffirm and restore our rootedness in African culture. It is, therefore, an expression of recovery and reconstruction of African culture which was being conducted in the general context of the Black Liberation Movement of the '60's. Secondly, Kwanzaa was created to serve as a regular communal celebration to reaffirm and reinforce the bonds between us as a people. Kwanzaa was established as a means to help Africans across the globe reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage by uniting in meditation and study of "African traditions" and "common humanist principles. It was designed to be an ingathering to strengthen community and reaffirm common identity, purpose and direction as a people and a world community. Thirdly, Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce the Nguzo Saba (the Seven Principles):
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 heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
This stress on the Nguzo Saba was at the same time an emphasis on the importance of African communitarian values in general, which stress family, community and culture and speak to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. And Kwanzaa was conceived as a fundamental and important way to introduce and reinforce these values and cultivate appreciation for them.
Black History Month
October is Black History Month in the UK and this is a good time to start preparations for the ‘first fruits’ of Kwanzaa seven days of celebrations which is only thirteen weeks away. This is the time to start the ‘ingathering’ process - an opportunity to look into your self and reflect on
Symbols of Kwanzaa
There are symbols which have a special meaning to the celebration of Kwanzaa:
1. The mkeka is a straw mat which symbolizes the tradition as the foundation on which all else rests.
2. The kinara is a seven-space candle holder, representing the original stalk from which the African people originated.
3. The mishumaa saba (seven candles) stand for the Seven Principles.
4. The muhindi are the ears of corn which represent the offspring (children) of the stalk (parents of the house).
5. The zawadi (gifts) represent the fruits of the labour of the parents and the rewards of seeds sown by the children.
Kwanzaa Customs
During the celebration of Kwanzaa, it is customary to greet friends and family with the Swahili phrase, "Habari gani", meaning, "What is the news?" To respond, answer with the principle of the day. (Umoja, for example, is the response given on December 26th).
Fasting, or abstaining from food, is often done during Kwanzaa, as a means of cleansing of the mind, soul, and spirit.
The Candle-lighting Ceremony
The candle-lighting ceremony, central to the celebration of Kwanzaa, takes place at a time when all members of the family are present. Children are encouraged to take an active role in all activities.
1. The ceremony begins with the TAMBIKO (libation), an African form of praise which pays homage to personal and collective ancestors. To begin, the elder of the household pours wine, juice or distilled spirits from the KIKOMBE CHA UMOJA (unity cup) into the earth or an earth-filled vessel. While pouring, the elder makes a statement honouring departed family members for the inspiration and values they have left with descendants. Friends are also remembered.
2. After the TAMBIKO, as a gesture of unity, the elder drinks from the KIKOMBE CHA UMOJA and then passes it for all to share. The elder leads the call, "HARAMBEE" (Let's pull together), and everyone participates in repeating the phrase seven times.
3. Candle-lighting, central to the ceremony, reinforces the meaning of the principles. The placement of the mishumaa saba (candles) in the kinara is as follows:
Black, for the colour of African peoples everywhere, is located in the centre. Three red candles, represents the blood of the ancestors, are placed to the left. Three green candles that symbolize the earth, life, and the ideas and promise of the future, are placed to the right.
Kwanzaa starts on the 26 December by lighting the first of the seven candles or mushumaa, the black candle in the middle of the kinara. A different candle is lit for each day, alternating from left to right. After the candle-lighting, the principle of the day is discussed.
The evening of December 31 (Day 6) is the KARAMU, a joyous celebration with food, drink, dance, and music for the collective family and friends. It is a time of rejoicing, reassessment and recommitment.
The ZAWADI, handmade or similarly meaningful gifts for children, may be opened at the KARAMU, or on the final day of Kwanzaa, when Imani is observed.

Sunday, 18 October 2009


WAWA ABA Hardiness Toughness Perseverance & Marcus Garvey, Letters from Tombs Prison, 1923 to the Members & Friends of the Universal Negro Improvement Association: "I take this opportunity to return thanks to you for the splendid interest you have manifested in me during the trial of my case. I bear with me the kindliest feelings toward you, I commend to your care and attention, my wife, who has been my helpmate and inspiration for years. She has suffered with me in the cause of service to my race, and if I have any sorrow, it is only on her account, that I cannot be alongside of her at all times to protect her from the evil designs of the enemy, but I commend her to your care and keeping and feel that you will do for her as much as you have done for me. Her tale of woe has not been told, but in my belief that truth will triumph over wrong, I feel sure that a day will come when the whole world will know the story of her noble sacrifice for the cause that I love so much. "I have been informed by my wife of the keen interest and deep sympathy you have shown in my case and imprisonment. This, as I have always said, was to be expected. "No one, in a day like this, can successfully lead a movement of reform like ours without making enemies and causing plotters to seek his ruin. Imprisonment or death means nothing to me in my service to our race. I am only expecting that you will hold fast to the glorious faith and work unceasingly for the triumph of our sacred cause. "You must pray for strong men and women to grow up among you to continue leading the race as your martyrs and heroes fall. Fall they must, as they do appear, but there must be a continuous procession until the goal is reached. "You must not mistake lip-service and noise for bravery and service. We have been so deceived for too long. True courage, bravery and real manhood cannot fail to show itself when embodied in the individual. It has no time and no place, it is ever evident. "Men and women who will bow, cringe and hide when the cloud seems dark are those whom we should avoid in choosing leaders. True leadership looks at dreadful odds, and smiles at them for the cause that needs assistance. I say to you, cheer up. A better and brighter day is in store-that day when Ethiopia shall in truth stretch forth her hands unto God."

The daily empowerment of African people requires a strong constitution made up of hardiness, toughness and perseverence and one Elder who consistently demonstrated these characteristics was Elder Marcus Garvey. He is no stranger to imprisonment and was incarcerated because of his resilence in advocating the philosophy of 'Africa for Africans'. In building leadership programmes for young African lions in prison requires these characteristics and this is perhaps one of the central reason why African-centred organisations delivering services to the most vunerable members of our community is missing. Issues relating to Africans in prison in UK at a local community level are rarely openly discussed, campaigned, supported and information about the brothers and sisters missing from the community and in jail are raised at family level in secrecy if ever. African people of Leeds and other major cities in the UK are over-represented in the imprisonment systems in extraordinarily high numbers. Non-African-centred research of young Africans presents reasons for this over-representation as:
  1. Social exclusion—both historic and current—is the key, primary cause of young black people's overrepresentation. Young African People are disproportionately subject to socio-economic disadvantage. Issues such as school exclusion, under-achievement, detained on remand, least likely to report victim of crime incidents, detained under the mental health act, etc.
  2. Factors specific to the black community—such as family patterns and cultures amongst young black people themselves—are both fuelled by and compound socio-economic deprivation such as unemployment, neighbourhood conflicts and disputes, lack of youth and community provision, poor health, single parenthood, female-centred households, etc.
  3. Thirdly, the operation of the criminal justice system, including both the reality and perception of discrimination, mean more young black people come into contact, and stay in contact, with the system.
Such non-African-centred reports although meaningful provide only a quantiative analysis of the numbers crunched and compounded into simple statistical inferences are invariably silent on the qualitative aspects to the African, the African family and community in Leeds and the rest of the UK. Building African-centred programmes which addresses the silence of African incarceration in the penal system and give voice to the issues at the forefront of the African experiences are long overdue. At a recent meeting between the Chapeltown MP and members of the community questions challenging this silence were raised and a promise made by the central government MP that these are 'issues which needs to be addressed locally and he will personally guarantee the development of services identified by the community'. But promises made on a whim are often quickly forgotten!!.

The proposal for the development of 'WAWA ABA' a charity and company aimed at delivering services to the African community in need of information, support and networking opportunities in respect of the penal system in the UK is long overdue. Challenging issues of overrepresentation and proposing initiatives for rehabilitation, employment, education and housing of African people as they experience the penal system is a central objective of WaWa Aba. We hope that all interested in these aims and objectives will render their action and ideas and participate in the construction of positive and empowering programmes. Human Rights and Social Justice are universal rights and responsibilities to be enjoyed by all including Africans from wherever in the world we hail.

So come and join us at WaWa Aba there is strength in many.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Leeds West Indian Centre Womens Group

Leeds West Indian Centre Womens Group - Sunday 13th September 2009 Leeds West Indian Centre 2-4pm

The September gathering of the 40 members of the Leeds West Indian Centre Womens Group was a well-planned and executed affair. Starting promptly the members had already signed in, read the minutes, sorted out their membership fees, submitted their paperwork from the family fun day long before starting time. Although the agenda had a long list of 22 items of business such as the welcome, prayers and apologies the discussion was deep and minuted accounts of the various activities and events the members had participated in since their last meeting. Gardening to Eat, Trip to Llandudno, Sewing, Computer, Salsa, Fashion Show, Drama and the other groups gave updated reviews of their work. Fundraising is an active part of the group's work as they are predominately self-financing with a small grant from a local charity was used to supplement the family fun day in August. The paper-based calendar of events showing the general meetings and the committee members meetings was also circulated. Additional information about fundraising, carnival, outings, black history, women anniversary, remembrance sunday and independence service were also given in the form of correspondence from external agencies which the womens group supports.

The group is not computer literate and its progression can be highly supported by the use of digital information technology. Computer classes have been arranged for 12 women to attend, the group has recently with a grant purchased five laptops and is very keen on developing the womens presence online. An email address, with supporting website, and other social networking tools should provide space for the group members to share and exchange information and ideas.

The Womens Group has been establised for 19 years developing services for their women members and with a wealth of positive experiences about how to deliver successful services to African British Women.

Chapeltown Rd, Leeds LS7

Does anyone know what is happening to the site between Chapeltown Rd and the Reginalds on the spot of the old Chapeltown Community Centre, Adventure Playground, the Hayfield Pub, play courts and the greenery gone? Some say the demolition is to make way for a new clinic one stop shop for the nation and that anyone could walk in off the street and get fixed up!!!

What do you know about what is happening, let us have your comments?