How To Determine Who You Are And Shape Your Own Destiny

Kwanzaa Family Celebration/Rashida B.Wikimedia/CC-2.0

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Kujichagulia, or self-determination, is the second principle of Kwanzaa. On this day, we make a commitment to develop, defend, and define ourselves on our own terms. We take back our power.

“In a time in which occupation and oppression of countries and peoples are immorally presented as necessary and even salvational, the principle of Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) rejects this and reaffirms the right of persons and peoples to determine their own destiny and daily lives; to live in peace and security; and to flourish in freedom everywhere.” - Dr. Maulana Karenga, creator of Kwanzaa.

Currently, we are bombarded with messages that project a false sense of identity about who we are and what we should value. The media presents Black people as criminals, beggars, unintelligent, sexually promiscuous, etc. We all know these traits do not represent the masses of our community, though.

If we are to truly define ourselves, we must reject whatever false notions the dominant society has bombarded us with.

Self-determination is the quest to answer the question “Who am I?” from a cultural and historical perspective.

Look around. There are countless examples of traits promoted as “Black culture” that are actually falsehoods. For example, in the hip-hop music promoted by white-owned record companies, gang culture is promoted and disguised as Black culture.

It should go without saying that these two cultures are not one in the same. However, the youth who are targeted by the record company’s marketing efforts run the risk of trying to live up to the culture of violence, misogyny, drug dealing, and drug abuse that record companies promote. These companies are interested in profit, not in strengthening the Black community.

However, authentic examples of Black culture throughout history have displayed a respect for life, an equal balance of both women and men, and an appreciation for nature that would not allow us to harm our bodies with poison.

If we are not firmly grounded in an understanding of who we are, then we may find ourselves accepting the negative characteristics promoted in the media as part of our culture -- instead of interpreting them as a threatening  foreign intrusion.

Although gang culture is an unfortunate reality for many in our community, it is a symptom of larger societal problems that must be addressed; to be clear, it is not an inherent trait of our culture.

So as we practice Kujichagulia, we should reflect on the parts of our identity that were given to us by those who have no interest in our growth, then determine ways to replace these ideas with authentic elements of our culture. One great place to start is by reading “The Destruction of Black Civilization” to get a solid grasp of what all has been destroyed, then determine which elements are useful to us today.

What other false cultural traits can you identify? How do you recommend using kujichagulia to determine our own identity and destiny?

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