Swahili, Pan-Africanism and Practicing Freedom: A Language of Liberation, Community and Culture – Part 2
My interest in and adoption of Kiswahili as a pan-African language of choice raised questions about how best to communicate this choice and initiative to the African-American community as well as the larger global African community. It was not only our learning of the language as a skill that was important to me, but also especially the study and adoption of its societal views, values and practices.
The task was therefore not only to provide language courses but also to create a cultural context and process through which there was a continuous and extended dialogue with African culture using Swahili as the central medium and modality. Working in the context of my organizations, the emerging Kawaida movement and the Black Liberation Movement, I began teaching, lecturing, speaking and advocating for Swahili.
I have also created three main structural means of grounding and engaging in these practices: Kavaida philosophy, Nguzo Sabaand the Pan-African holiday Kwanzaa. As I deepened my study of Swahili and began to study Zulu, as well as expanding my study of continental African cultures and social and liberal thought, I began to develop my philosophy, Kavaidausing a Swahili word to name it.
A self-consciously communal African philosophy, Kawaida defines itself as an ongoing synthesis of the best of African sensibility, thought and practice in constant exchange with the world. The term Kawaida has multiple meanings, although it is now used to refer to the ordinary and normal, its wider semantic range includes the meanings of custom, system, regulative principle, regularity of practice and tradition.
Bringing new meaning to this set of definitions, I have defined Kawaida as an ongoing synthesis of tradition and reason informed by practice. In this way, Kawaida’s philosophy takes the inherited tradition and constantly reshapes it, seeking paradigms that represent the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense.
Kawaida was conceived and practiced as a liberal philosophy born in the midst of ideological and practical struggles during the Black Freedom Movement of the 1960s. These struggles had an overarching dual purpose and direction – to be ourselves and to liberate ourselves so that we can live good and meaningful lives and reach our fullness as individuals and people. And central to this process was extracting the best from our ancient and modern cultures and using it to ground, center, and direct our lives to good and expansive purposes.
This process took place in different categories: Back to Black, going back to the source, realizing our African selves and acting accordingly, cultural revolution and later sankofa, reaching back and retrieving ie. the best of our culture – continental and diasporic – ancient and modern – and using it in liberating and life-enhancing ways.
Out of the philosophy of Kawaida in 1965 I created Nguzo SabaThe Seven Principles, a Community African Value System and the Core Community Values of the Pan-African Celebration Kwanzaaa celebration of family, community and culture that I created in 1966. These seven Swahili values are: Umoja (Unity)Kudzhichagulia (Self-determination)Ujima (Collective work and responsibility)Ujamaa (Economics of cooperation)Nia (Purpose)Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith).
I created Nguzo Saba as a foundation and framework for being ourselves and freeing ourselves by striving and fighting for good in the world. The practice of these principles was aimed at constant striving and struggle for liberation, community building and other goods in the world. To say that these values are communal is to say that they understand and engage the human person as a person in community, connected and connected in a principled, purposeful and productive way.
Therefore, they emphasize interconnectedness, togetherness, caring, cooperation, other-centeredness, and again striving and struggle. And they offer liberating alternatives to vulgar individualism, mindless consumerism, humiliating imitation of others, unconcern and disregard for others, and alienation from the earth and our responsibility to it.
These seven principles serve as core beliefs and values that people use to culturally ground the way they live their lives, do their work, and wage their struggles for good in the world. They use them to name and establish themselves, to name and educate their children, to name their organizations, institutions and projects, and to develop and carry out various programs and projects for community service, building, development and struggle.
I created Kwanzaa for several reasons: to affirm and return to our rootedness in African culture; to give Africans everywhere a special time to come together, strengthen the bonds between us, celebrate ourselves and meditate on the incredible meaning of being African in the world; and finally, to introduce and reinforce the importance of communal African values, especially Nguzo Saba.
Because they are truly the hub and hinge around which the holiday revolves. Kwanzaa is now celebrated by millions throughout the global African community on every continent in the world. And it has become not only a source of cultural foundation for these millions, but also a major means of expanding the arc of perception and use of Swahili and Swahili community views and values.
It is also important to note that in keeping with the understanding of Swahili as a language of liberation and my deep involvement in the Black Liberation Movement, I created Kwanzaa as an act of freedom, an instrument of freedom and a celebration of freedom. It was created as an act of freedom, as a liberating return to our culture without seeking or needing the approval or recognition of others, and as a means of resistance to the racism and cultural imperialism of the dominant society.
Also, it was created as an instrument of freedom, a means of building a culture of resistance, raising cultural and political awareness, and cultivating commitment to the liberation struggle. And it was created as a celebration of freedom, a celebration of ourselves and the liberating practices of breaking free and being ourselves in a radical break with the established order of oppression.
Since the 1960s at the African American Cultural Center (US) I have taught and taught Swahili, continental and African culture, conducted life cycle ceremonies using Swahili language concepts ie. Akika (Birth and Naming); Majando (Rites of Passage); Brides of Ndoa (Wedding/Marriage); Majina Cup (Appointment); Maziko (Transition). We have also recruited and invited volunteer instructors and tutors from Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda to teach Swahili and mainland African culture.
I have also taught Swahili at California State University, Long Beach, where I am professor and chair of the Africana Studies Department, and where I won approval to use it for what was then a language graduation requirement. And of course I used Swahili to fulfill my language requirements for my MA and my first PhD, without needing a second language for my second PhD, although I used Swahili and other African languages in my second dissertation.
Also, at the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) held in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977, as chairman of the African-American delegation to the Education Forum, I advocated for Swahili to be the pan-African language of the continent of Africa and the Global African Community.
Finally, this year’s theme for World Kiswahili Language Day, Kiswahili for Peace and Prosperity, reminds me of the peacemaking lectures I have given over the years using the Swahili concept of mapatano. Kawaida’s conception of the practice of peace is rooted in the term patana with its implication of peace as a mutual receiving, shared justice arising from the word pata – to obtain, achieve, provide.
Patana is the reciprocal form of the verb, emphasizing reciprocity in relationships and behavior, i.e. reconcile, agree, reconcile, work in harmony and thus achieve peace, the basic concept of mutual gain leading to justice and peace or peace with justice. Therefore, the peacemaker, mpatanishiis the one who reconciles and achieves peace and harmony, mapatanoamong people and nations, ensuring that everyone gets their due.
Here I connect African cultures by emphasizing Maati’s ethical emphasis on peace, which says: “It is exceedingly good to practice peace. And there is no guilt for those who practice it. For true peace is a reflection of justice in the world and a dual and interrelated basis for shared prosperity that achieves and sustains human good and the well-being of the world.
Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor and Chair of African Studies, California State University-Long Beach; Executive Director, African American Cultural Center (USA); Creator of Kwanzaa; and author of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture and Struggle Essays: Position and Analysis, www.AfricanAmericanCulturalCenter-LA.org; www.OfficialKwanzaaWebsite.org; www.MaulanaKarenga.org.
Swahili, Pan-Africanism and the Practice of Freedom: A Language of Liberation, Community and Culture – Part 2 – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel Source link Swahili, Pan-Africanism and the Practice of Freedom: A Language of Liberation, Community and Culture – Part 2 – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel