Kwanzaa is now observed as a national holiday by countless people in homes schools and public and private institutions across the United States.  Like African American History Month, Kwanzaa is a part of the cultural fabric of America and is a special time for African Americans to celebrate the joys of family and community, to African their humanity, to take inventory of what they have accomplished, beginning with the family and extending to the national African American community, and to recommit themselves to practicing the guiding principles of family and community- the Seven Principles

KUJICHAGULIA (CO-GEE-CHA-GOO-LEE-AH) SELF-DETERMINATION:  To define ourselves, to name ourselves, speak for ourselves and create for ourselves.

The second principle is a commitment to building our lives in our own images and interests. If we, as a people, are to achieve our goals we must take the responsibility for that achievement upon ourselves, for self-determination is the essence of freedom. This day calls for a reaffirmation of our commitment to struggle for all people of African descent, particularly those of us here in America, to build a more meaningful and fulfilling life.


The Kujichagulia principle says African Americans need defined and practice their own cultural values, celebrate their heroes and heroines, and contribute in their own way to bettering themselves, their communities and institutions, the nation and the world. The essence of self-determination is freedom.

Instruction: Explain and discuss the importance of practicing the self-determination value.
To define ourselves, to name ourselves, speak for ourselves and create for ourselves.

If you borrow a man’s legs, you will go where he directs you.

Explanation: If one is too heavily indebted to someone, one will lose one’s independence.

The Hamster’s Piece of a Tail
Once upon a time, before the famine of “Peeling Off the Brain,” all animals lived together in a place called “Gets Dark Early.”  There was plenty of food and the animals lived in harmony. 
One time, there was very severe famine called “Peeling off the Brain.”  This caused some animals to change their lifestyle, which was a great surprise to the other animals.  Flies started biting other animals.
The animals met to decide what they were to do with flies.  That is when one woman of the hamsters’ clan said she had made tails for keeping off the flies.  She told the animals to go back to their home and wait for her to announce the day she was to distribute the tails.
 One hamster went to that woman, because she was his grandmother, to be given a tail.  When he arrived, he told her, “Grandmother, I heard you are the one distributing tails, I have come to you to get mine.”
 The grandmother answered, “My grandchild, come very early in the morning the day after tomorrow and I will give you your tail.”
 On the day the hamster was to get his tail, he did not arrive at the time he had been told to arrive by his grandmother.  He thought, because his grandmother was the one distributing tails, he could never miss getting a tail.  Because it was late in the day when he finally arrived, the hamster was told, “Sleep my grandchild and tomorrow I will give you a tail if there are any remaining.  Since you did not show up early today, I gave out all of them.”
 On the following morning, the grandmother looked around and found only a small broken piece of a tail around and found only a small broken piece of a tail and told her grandchild, “Take this small broken piece of a tail which is all that is left, and put it on while I search for a whole tail for you.”  And to this day, the hamster’s grandmother has never found a whole tail.

Moral of the Story: There is no free lunch.  Being surrounded by opportunities is not a guarantee that we will enjoy them unless we do what it takes to positively pursue them.  Just because Dad and Mom have that house or that attractive bank account does not guarantee that you will have the same.  You have to do as Mom and Dad did, stay in school, have a vision or goal and work toward it, stay away from destructive habits, and detest bad associations.  Wherever you are, opportunities exist.  Will you “get up early at you appointed time and get you tail?”  Or will you just settle for a broken piece of tail for all of your life?

Yoruba of Nigeria Riddle:
 Who has a house too small for guests?
Answer: A turtle.

Significant Event

Black History Month
 Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week as a way of calling attention to the historical achievements which blacks made to human civilization. Woodson dedicated his life to advancing African Americans through the promotion of Black History. He often stated he was interested in preserving and publishing the records of blacks so that the “race may not become a negligible factor in the thought of the world.” In Woodson’s view, dissemination of black history would build self-respect among blacks. His aim was to have African Americans appreciate of what their race had thought, felt and achieved. A lasting monument to Woodson’s work was his organizing the second week in February, in 1926, as Black history Week celebration.  This celebration of Black History Week has now become Black History Month.
Instruction: Question and Answer
Discuss the significance of African American History Month. How was Woodson’s establishment of Black History Week an expression of the principle Self-determination? What can be learned from the study of African American History Month?

Kwanzaa Symbol

Learning Opportunity: Kwanzaa Symbol

 Mat/Mkeka: Tradition and History
This symbol is symbolic of the tradition and history for African Americans both on the continent of Africa and in the United States. All Kwanzaa items are placed on the mat. The African American National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing is a part of the history and tradition of African Americans.

Kwanzaa Activities
Self-Determination Day

 Candle Lighting: On the second day of Kwanzaa the family or classroom students light the red candle. This candle is represents the value of work and effort.  The lesson here is that progress and achievement comes about through work and struggle. Frederick Douglass reminds us that if there is no struggle, there is no progress. For children and youth, the lesson teaches that good grades and school performance is a result of effort.

 African Naming Activity:   Selecting an African name (Swahili) based on a quality they aspire to attain is wonderful way to teach the value of Self-Determination. During the course of the year or semester, the family member or student should be reinforced and recognize as he/she exhibits the qualities of his/her name.

 African American Hero/Heroine:   As a family or classroom select and read at least one magazine or journal article on African American hero or heroine.

 African Proverbs: Each month select and study an African Proverb and apply the lessons to your daily life.

Self-Determination Kwanzaa Commitment: Each family member or student declares opening declares what he/she will do to practice and honor their culture (read about their heroes and heroines or history).


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