This year, Austin Recovery began an internal diversity initiative to help broaden our cultural, social, and physical diversity. We launched several diversity initiatives (led by a Diversity Task Force – a diverse, cross-functional group of employee volunteers who take ownership of our initiatives and drive the change forward) that ranged from employee trainings, recognition and education around multicultural holidays, general awareness, and much more. To us, diversity encompasses acceptance and respect… moving beyond simply tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual, which can be along many different dimensions, such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies (source). As part of our initiative, we have asked for staff to contribute content about their personal cultural identifications in order to help share with and educate others.
Craig Ross, Austin Recovery’s Director of Men’s Voyage and Outpatient Programs is the first to contribute, just in time for the beginning of Kwanzaa:
Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday begun in 1966 by the Cal State Long Beach Black Studies Director, Dr. Karenga. His belief that all cultures should have a holiday which celebrates their traditions, is a foundation for this holiday. lt began before America began to celebrate MLK day. Kwanzaa is 12/26 through 1/01, each year. Each day of the seven days of Kwanzaa commemorates one of the seven principles (below). We have celebrated Kwanzaa in my home for 45 years now.
More about Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Its 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. 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 southeastern Africa. Kwanzaa builds on the five fundamental activities of Continental African “first fruit” celebrations: ingathering; reverence; commemoration; recommitment; and celebration.
Rooted in this ancient history and culture, Kwanzaa develops as a flourishing branch of the African American life and struggle as a recreated and expanded ancient tradition. Thus, it bears special characteristics, for it 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 Americans in a special way, but also to Africans as a whole, in its stress on history, values, family, community and 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 and in the specific context of The Organization Us, the founding organization of Kwanzaa and the authoritative keeper of its tradition. Secondly, Kwanzaa was created to serve as a regular communal celebration to reaffirm and reinforce the bonds between us as a people. 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.)
Official colors: black, red and green.
Nguzo Saba – The Seven Principles
Source: The Official Kwanzaa Web Site
Umoja (Unity): To strive for and 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 brother’s and sister’s 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 t 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.
Kwanzaa Gifts and Greetings
Source: The Official Kwanzaa Web Site
Greetings: The greetings during Kwanzaa are in Swahili. Swahili is a Pan-African language and is chosen to reflect African Americans’ commitment to the whole of Africa and African culture rather than to a specific ethnic or national group or culture. The greetings are to reinforce awareness of and commitment to the Seven Principles. It is: “Habari gani?” and the answer is each of the principles for each of the days of Kwanzaa, i.e., “Umoja”, on the first day, “Kujichagulia”, on the second day and so on.
Gifts: Gifts are given mainly to children, but must always include a book and a heritage symbol. The book is to emphasize the African value and tradition of learning stressed since ancient Egypt, and the heritage symbol to reaffirm and reinforce the African commitment to tradition and history.