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Today is the first day of Kwanzaa!

I get excited about this celebration every year.

I love frameworks -- hence my obsession with the Nine Dimensions of Wellness.

Kwanzaa is the perfect framework for reviving one's connection to community.

Looking Back to Move Forward

Dr. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966 following the Watts Uprising that took place in L.A. in August 1965. Emotions in Black neighborhoods were reaching a boiling point due to substandard housing, poverty, racism and more. The breaking point came when bystanders say they witnessed a law enforcement officer mistreat a pregnant woman during a traffic stop. Nearly a week of rebellion ensued resulting in 4,000 people being arrested, hundreds being injured and numerous buildings being destroyed.

Sound familiar...?

Like summer 2020, violent tensions led to a desire for healing. Dr. Karenga, who was a graduate student at the time, believed that if Black people learned about and reconnected with their African roots, empowerment, pride and healing would indeed arise. In the spirit of African "first fruits" or "first harvest" festivals that celebrate teamwork and that serve as times of remembrance, Dr. Karenga developed Kwanzaa and incorporated seven principles, Nguzo Saba.


Under non-COVID circumstances, public Kwanzaa celebrations are held for seven days from December 26 through January 1. At the start of each night, the group's leader asks: Habari gani? The audience responds with the featured principle of the evening.

The first principle is umoja, which means unity in Swahili. How fitting is it to think about working together in peace with our family, our neighbors and our nation while were also contemplating ways to boost our Social Wellness?

Social Wellness is about relationships. As much as we need to nurture our bodies and our mental health, we also need to nurture our communities.

We all need some level of support, encouragement and inspiration.

When people become isolated, or on the most destructive end -- get trapped by harmful circumstances -- problems like depression and anxiety (or worse) can increase. Necessary elements like trust, awareness and sensitivity plummet. 

Umoja and Social Wellness are represented well by the following proverb:

I am because we are.

By choosing to engage in one or more of the following habits, you can contribute to the the commUNITY we all need everyday of the year.

Challenge: Nguzo Saba 365

Following umoja (unity), we then reflect on:

  • Kujichagulia¬†(koo-jee-chah-GOO-lee-ah):¬†Self-determination.¬†To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.¬†Self-Determination requires that we define our common interests and make decisions that are in the best interest of our family and community.
  • Ujima¬†(oo-JEE-mah):¬†Collective Work and Responsibility.¬†To build and maintain our community together and to make our Brother‚Äôs and sister‚Äôs problems, our problems and to solve them together.¬†Collective Work and Responsibility reminds us of our obligation to the past, present and future, and that we have a role to play in the community, society, and world.
  • Ujamaa¬†(oo-jah-MAH-ah):¬†Cooperative Economics.¬†To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.¬†Cooperative economics emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support.
  • Nia¬†(NEE-ah):¬†Purpose.¬†To make as our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.¬†Purpose encourages us to look within ourselves and to set personal goals that are beneficial to the community.
  • Kuumba¬†(koo-OOM-bah):¬†Creativity.¬†To do always as much as we can, in the way that we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful than when we inherited it.¬†Creativity makes use of our creative energies to build and maintain a strong and vibrant community.
  • Imani¬†(ee-MAH-nee):¬†Faith.¬†To believe with all our hearts in our parents, our teachers, our leaders, our people and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.¬†Faith focuses on honoring the best of our traditions, draws upon the best in ourselves, and helps us strive for a higher level of life for humankind, by affirming our self-worth and confidence in our ability to succeed and triumph in righteous struggle. (citation)

Social Wellness is enveloped by each of these concepts. Dr. Karenga hoped that the principles and symbols of Kwanzaa would guide us all year long, so let's strive to honor his wishes.

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