Kwanzaa ’06: Kuumba

(cross-posted at

Creativity. It's like Butterfly FX says:

Take time to be creative whether in the kitchen, with a music score,
the brush, the clippers, the microphone, the computer, with your happy
feet, your hands, your vocal chords or guitar chords. We have a
creativity that can teach and heal.

That'll work. As will Sassy Redbone:

This day is one of my favorites because it challenge us to do
something that we as black folks have done all too well. Make something
out of nothing… No I am not talking drama… I am talking the energy
it takes to retrieve scraps from master and make a meal. The energy
that inspired Grandma to take torn material and make it into a quilt.
The energy that it takes to turn pain into poetry. The Energy that is
takes to turn a blank canvas into a masterpiece…


It is a beautiful thing. It is what keeps us going from day to day –
it is what stretches out a paycheck to the next pay period. We are all
creative in our own ways. Kwanzaa asks us to use our creative energy.
They ask us to use our creativity to help our community – but I want to
ask you to use your creativity to help your self… We all have our 9 –
5 jobs that we work every day. These are cool they keep the bills paid
and life comfortable for most. But is that all we want??? I want to
challenge you to extend yourself… Think about the lady that put
puppets in front of a camera and played Bach and Mozart in the
background, she initially made it for her own children. Baby Bach is
now a multi-million dollar corporation. We all have that little fire
inside of us that can be made into Kuumba… It might not be our place
in the universe to make over a million dollars however what we create
today may help others in the future…

That applies over all formats. Check out J.R. Richard's Mandrake Society Radio podcast with special guest Melanie Morgan for more. I had the pleasure of meeting J.R. at SXSW Interactive and Melanie at BlogHer.

Kwanzaa ’06: Nia

(cross-posted at

Purpose. It ain't all about a great Blackalicious album, neither. 😉

Nia (+ Bonus Tracks)

Jasmyne Cannick's got the definition and Black My Story and Deep Brown Girl at Just Sista Things (1, 2) weigh in briefly, but Linda takes a more personal and reflective tack on it. That makes me think about personal purpose vs. a community-focused purpose. Sometimes I think I have more community than I know what to do with. Sometimes I wonder what good I can do as well as what resolve the doable good will require.

Kwanzaa ’06: Ujamaa

(cross-posted from

Cooperative economics, right? Soulsearching's got the definition and DarkStar takes it on further. My thought? What does that mean in an attention economy where some small amount of, well, somebody's dollars can hinge on whether you click on this-here link to take you to that-there Web site or blog?

If attention is money, I'm'a always put a dollar in Planet Grenada's cap. (Go visit and wish proprietor Abdul-Halim a  Happy Eid.) He points to Garvey's Ghost's "Thoughts on Kwanzaa 2006," wherein Sondjata asks:

So if people can go through Kwanzaa and learn nothing of
Pan-Africanism or of African culture of the continent or the Diaspora,
then really, what is the point?

All I can say is that we who celebrate it or are aware of it and think it has meaning or utility have to do the heavy lifting. There are lots of Christians out there, and even they have a tough time cracking a Bible and getting to church on the regular. It's hard out there for a believer.

Kwanzaa ’06: Ujima

Collective work and responsibility means looking out for each other. We don't do that, what's the point?

What it means to Eric V. Copage:

[…] It means listening to one another. It means being part of the
brainstorming for a solution. If a black friend is looking for a job,
it means going through our Rolodex for business contacts.

If a black friend has a health problem, it means recommending a
trusted doctor, or a book that might offer a remedy, without being
asked. We are only droplets in the ocean of life, only vapor in the
sky, but through our collective actions our community will be renewed.

On this third day of Kwanzaa, Ujima, I pledge to give the gifts of
nourishment and support by suggesting a solution–without being
asked–when I notice someone in our community who has a problem. […]

And to Africa Adoption Blog:

[…] I saw this principle in action in Rwanda this past June. Once every 4
weeks, the entire nation takes a Saturday to do community good. This
could be cleaning the sidewalks, picking up trash, fixing a communal
building, painting or something that benefits the entire community. We
asked what happened if a family only wanted to clean in front of their
own home, for example, and were told that while no one would physically
force them to participate, it would definitely be frowned upon. What a
remarkable concept! Can you imagine the force for good we would have
here in the United States if every family participated in a
community-building project every single month? Wow. I love it! […]

And I liked finding Graphictruth today:

[…] Any time any
group of people wants to get together and collectively improve
themselves, to earn respect from others and (often much harder) improve
their own self-respect, I'm all for people "gettin' above themselves."
It's generally not all that hard, either, considering the sort of folks
that set that bar. […]

Vox Hunt: A Favorite Song from ’06

Audio:  Share one of your favorite songs from 2006.

Pitchfork: There was a track written about on Pitchfork recently, "Something Isn't Right", the first track on Scale,
and the writer, Mark Pytlik, said that you could tell in a few moments
it was a Herbert track. And I think that's true; despite how different
your records sound from each other, there is something there, a thread
through them. I know that at various times you've talked about music as
a way of getting away from ego, but I do feel like there is something
you can't get away from. I'm not sure exactly what it is; to me it
seems like a rhythmic sensibility that informs your work, a swing that
sound like Herbert. Are you aware that a part of yourself is in there,
regardless of the materials you're working with?

MH: I'm not. I'm really not. I know I have patterns and I've always
tried hard to avoid them. There are definitely certain things in my
music, if I'm looking back, "Well, that was a period where I was
experimenting with a certain kind of chord structure or a certain kind
of sound." I've tried really hard, but I'd be hard pressed to tell you
what that sound, what that tangible sound of "me" is. I think rhythm
is, when you talk about rhythmic sensibility, quite perceptive in that
I like to have at least one thing that is at least common or familiar
to the audience. Other than rhythm, the only thing I could say is that
I take a great deal of pride in every single sound I use. I'm always
making sure that I'm not using a pre-set or something that everyone
else has done. I try to be original in every piece of music I do, and
of course I probably fail every time.

Pitchfork: Let me ask you– that moment in "Something Isn't
Right" where he sings, "Do you re-mem-ber?" First time I heard that it
reminded me of "September" by Earth Wind & Fire. I was sitting with
my wife and I asked her, Do you think that's a direct reference to that
song, or is it just a few notes that sound similar?

MH: There is a very slight reference there. It's a reference to the
11th of September because that's what the Earth Wind & Fire tune
was called. I almost had it "Do you remember? The 11th of September?"
But there was no way I could possibly put that in.

Pitchfork: So that's the kind of reference you're talking about, where you embed those kinds of things in the music.

Exactly. And the record's full of them in different places. It's
kind of like, trying to use every weapon in your arsenal to point
people in a certain direction.

Kwanzaa ’06: Kujichagulia

Self-determination is more than just a notion, according to Sassy Redbone:

Take a moment today to think on the labels that have been flung at
you. Are you reinforcing them? Are you doing it because you want to or
are you scared to move outside of the box??? It is uncomfortable and it
is scary to move forward.

If you are reading this please take a moment to determine yourself…

Over at Something Good, o-my-goddess weighs in:

Because so much of Kwanzaa involves
cooperation and unity, self determination should be looked at as making
decisions that are not only good for ourselves but good for our family
and the greater community. Doesn’t this sound a lot like what we try to
do here at Something Good when we focus on ways that we can minimize
our waste and use less resources?

suggestion is to take a few minutes to think about how you can make
sure that your own behavior reflects your care and respect for the
things and people around you. Perhaps you could use this opportunity to
consider quitting smoking, as it has a harmful effect on both one’s own
body and the physical and emotional well-being of family and
friends. Maybe you want to experiment with switching from chemical to
natural cleaners in order to make a healthier home for your children
and a less polluted planet for all of us. By determining your own
behavior, you can have a significant impact on those who rely upon
you. What a wonderful way to do Something Good.

Blogging's a useful, balanced part of my own self-determination, how I get beyond things you (may think you) know about me just by looking at me toward things neither you nor I know (until we find out together).

Kwanzaa ’06: Umoja

(Crossposted from

About half a dozen blogs fall into a category I'd call "practical magic": Lifehacker-like advice for right speech, thought and action. I'll list them at some point, but the one that comes to mind most readily today is the indispensable So what can I do?, who last year just so happened to have kicked off the holiday with tips. Oh, and Oxford University Press has a little somethin'-somethin' for you too. And if you ain't been by Cobb in a minute, do so. Read the poem, dig the wayback-wordage and watch the Google Video.

[…] This is something I say I officially learned this year but has been a lesson a long time coming. One should always pay attention to the quality of one's enemies, which is to say one should never be so lazy as to allow those opposed to you believe lies when the truth is at your disposal. It is in this spirit that I defend Kwanzaa. It is in this spirit that I represent as a black man. I never say that what I know is something you can't understand, because it always implies that I'm either incapable or unwilling to explain. […]