Families today are under ever-increasing pressures and stressors. External factors-unemployment and underemployment; long commutes to and from work; child care and supervision; after work chores-meal preparation, homework assistance, family bonding time-the imposition of music videos and “reality TV” shows, which come with values and a social orientation, consume families and undermine the integrity of the family as society’s fundamental social unit for socializing and habilitating children. For families under siege these pressures can be overwhelming and unmanageable, leading to severe dysfunction.
The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa- Unity, Self-determination, Collective work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith- offer hope and new possibilities for families under siege and those who with greater resource capacity which mitigates many of the pressures working class and poor families face. The Seven Principles function as guiding principles, informing and giving family members a shared understanding and sense of collective identity (of what the family stands for), where its going, what kind of family, community, and world it wants to live in, and most importantly, how it intends to make that world a reality. Moreover, the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa provide family members with an overarching sense of identity, purpose and direction. Hence, in crisis and non crisis situations, family members-parents and children- know how to respond to situation and why they are responding the way they are.
Seven Principles of Kwanzaa-Guiding Family Values
As mentioned above, Kwanzaa offers the families seven core values. The unity value stresses togetherness. The value instructs that members of the family, beginning with parents, strive for togetherness. Put another way, value and practice of togetherness ensures the primacy of the family over the individual. Family members and the family, therefore, engage in activities and practices which promote and reinforce togetherness. As the ancient wisdom teaches, togetherness harmonizes inside and outside; it resolves the difference in husband and wife, sibling and sibling, parent and child.
The value self-determination instructs family members to anchor themselves in the in their own culture and history, giving them meaning and dignity, making them actors and not spectators in the unfolding of the events of life. The African proverb teaches, “If you borrow a man’s legs, it will go where he directs you.”
The value collective work and responsibility reinforces the unity value and teaches each family member to recognize that their own well-being is derived from their family’s and community’s well being and that they must be concern with the overall health of their family and community; and that the lives of each family member and that of the community are bound together, and that the success of any one their lives is an aspect of and dependent on the goodness and health of the community as a whole; and that finally, there can be no private accounting of the success or failure of their individual lives one by one. The community and the families which make up the community are responsible for the success and failure of the community in its totality.
The next value, cooperative economics, instructs and empowers families to come together around their collective economic interest and to see their economic strength in sharing resources and cooperative investing, buying, and selling. Moreover, the moral ties necessary to achieve and practice the Ujamaa principle obligate those who live in the community to support, care for and look out for each other and to see the interest of the each person as tied to the interest of the family and community. In a word, wealth and resources should be shared.
The value purpose instructs that every member of the family must be mission-driven and asks each person to be services or mission-driven on the behalf of their family, school, and community. The core concept and practice of the value Purpose is service. Service to others, family school, community and the nation is what defines who we are and our possibilities for developing communities that provide the context for families and children to thrive and flourish. Each member of the family, school, or community is asked to examine his/her skills or talents and determine how he/she will put forth those skills or talents in the service of the family, school, or community.
The creativity value demands continuous improvement both at the personal and family level. This principle pushes families and communities, adults and youth, not to be satisfied with “just getting by”, with not being satisfied with being average or even above average. George Washington Carver, acclaimed scientist, teaches us all that: “No one has a right to come in to the world without leaving behind a distinct and legitimate reason for having passed though it.”
And, the faith value teaches us to have confidence in ourselves, parents, teachers and leaders and community. Mary McLeod Bethune, noted educator and ambassador says: “Without faith nothing is possible; with faith nothing is impossible. Faith empowers us to see beyond the immediate. Philosopher Howard Thurman asserts: “Faith is the substance and spirit which makes “tired hearts refreshed and dead hopes stir with the nearness of life; faith is the “promise of tomorrow at the close of everyday, the triumph of life in the defiance of death, and the assurance that love is sturdier than fate, right is more confident than wrong, that good is more permanent than evil.
Putting it all together
As families increasing come under financial duress, as predicted by many leading economist, they will unavoidably need anchoring and guidance. The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, non religious values, is certainly a remedy that transformative power and ethical grounding.
For more on Kwanzaa and the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, visit http://www.kwanzaaguide.com.
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