(This article is part of a series exploring and applying the seven principles of Kwanzaa.)

Kwanzaa (KWAN-za) comes from the Swahili word which means first fruits. It is a festival observed by many African Americans from December 26 to January 1 as a celebration of their culture and values. Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by university professor, Dr. Maulana Karenga. He combined aspects of several different African harvest celebrations as a way to bring African Americans together as a community.

There are seven principles of Kwanzaa (Nguzo Saba in Swahili), each celebrated on a different day. I thought introducing the principles to One Degree Shift might contribute to building and reinforcing togetherness in our virtual community.  Many express pride and curiosity in learning about Kwanzaa and reflecting on its daily cultural focus. 

Each Day the Spotlight is on a Powerful Principle

On the first day, the Principle is Umoja (oo–MO–jah), which means Unity. To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, friends, and community, and to engage daily in practices which build bonds of affection and attachment.

Unity is the spiritual gravity which pulls and holds a community together. It calls us to help overcome the divisions among us and to strengthen the ties that define and bind us. On Unity (Umoja) Day, we celebrate our togetherness and each person’s achievements.

[Source: Read more about the seven principles of Kwanzaa here.]

Here Are 3 Valuable Ways We Encourage Togetherness in One Degree Shift

  1. We create bonds through mutual respect and inclusion. One Degree Shift consists of individuals of different backgrounds, cultures, experiences, and perspectives. We value our diversity and believe everyone is worthy of respect. We build unity by showing respect to each individual and appreciating their unique talents and contributions.
  2. We support one another. Whether it is a listening ear, sharing our learning to solve a problem, or collaborating on a project, we understand that no one succeeds individually. We practice making powerful requests in a community of difference makers who are always looking for ways to help.
  3. We are inspired by working together for the common good. We raised money from the sale of our newly released books, Emerge and The Call to Soar, to support the Unstoppable Foundation in providing a basic education to children around the world. Together we rallied others to make a difference with us by building and furnishing a school house and giving the entire community access to clean water, sanitation, food and nutrition, healthcare and alternative income training for parents. Our combined efforts put the FUN in fundraising. Proceeds from our book sales continue to support this worthy mission. As one of my coauthors, Johnnene Gay, shared about her experience in the Transform Through Writing program, “We became a community of like minds.”

Imagine a More Wonderful World If We Unite In This Way

In these challenging times, it is important to build unity in the world. In the words of the late Steve Jobs, great things are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.

How will you contribute to increasing unity in the world in the new year? 

Often it is the smallest action that makes a big difference. Share your ideas in the comments below.

Get more helpful ideas on how to practice the Kwanzaa principles throughout the year.