CREATIVITY The Kwanzaa Principle




The sixth principle is Kuumba (Creativity) and logically follows from and is required by the principle of Nia. It is a commitment to being creative within the context of the national community vocation of restoring our people to their traditional greatness and thus leaving our community more beneficial and beautiful than we, i.e., each generation, inherited it. The principle has both social and spiritual dimension and is deeply rooted both in social and sacred teachings of African societies.

Nowhere is this principle more clearly expressed than in the literature and culture of ancient Egypt. Creativity here is both an original act of imitation of the creator and a restorative act, also, reflective of the Creator constantly pushing back the currents of chaos and decay and revitalizing and restoring the natural, spiritual and cosmic energy of the world. In ancient Egypt, there was a spiritual and ethical commitment and obligation to constantly renew and restore the great works, the legacy of the ancestors, and the creative energy of the leader and nation. This was considering doing Maat, I.E., reaffirming and restoring truth, justice and righteousness, harmony, balance, order, rightness, etc. Each pharaoh saw his or her reign, then, as one of restoration of Maat, i.e., the reaffirmation, reestablishment and renewal of the Good, the beautiful and the Right. This concept of restoration Maat includes the concept of serudj ta (restoring the world).
These concepts of restoration and progressive perfection which are key concepts in the philosophy of Kawaida and which reflected a fundamental cultural thrust of the 1960’s, informed the conception and development of Kwanzaa. And, of course, they became a goal and value of Kwanzaa in the principle of Kuumba (Creativity).

It is of value to note that the creation of Kwanzaa falls within the restorative conception of creativity. Kwanzaa is a creative restoration in the spirit of cultural restoration and renewal in both the ancient African and African in the Diaspora  sense of the practice as used in the 1960’s.
It is, in fact, a restoring that which was in ruins or disuse in many parts of Africa, especially among Africans in America, and attempting to make more beautiful and beneficial than it was before as the principle of Kuumba (Creativity) requires. This as stated above, contains the interrelated principle of restoration and progressive perfection. To restore is what we call in the 60’s “to rescue and reconstruct.” Progressive perfection is a Kawaida concept that assumes and ability and obligation to strive always to leave what one inherits (legacy, community) more beautiful and beneficial than it was before. It is again, in this context and spirit of the cultural project of recovering and reconstructing African first-fruits celebrations that Kwanzaa was conceived and constructed.
The stress, then, is on leaving a legacy which builds on and enriches the legacy before you. It is again stress on generational responsibility. Kwanzaa reminds us of the ancient Egyptian teaching that if we wish to live for eternity we must build for eternity, i.e., do great works or serve the community in a real, sustained and meaningful way. This reflects both a social and moral criteria for eternal life and it is interesting to note that this discussion of great works and service surfaces in a discussion by Martin Luther King on Service. He said that all of us cannot build great works but we can serve and that in itself can lead to greatness.
Finally, Egyptian king Sesostris I taught that to do that which is of value is forever. A people called forth by its works do not die for their name is raised and remembered because of it. The lesson here is that creativity is central to the human spirit and human society; that it causes us to grow, restores and revitalizes us and the community and insures our life for eternity. And the Book of Kheti teaches that we should not underestimate the positive or negative, the creative or destructive effects of our thoughts and actions. For it says, “Everyday is a donation to eternity and even one hour is a contribution to the future.”


Paul Hill (NROPI)

Kwanzaa Principle PURPOSE

PURPOSE ( Nia ….nee-AH)

“To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.”

The fifth principle of the Nguzo Saba is PURPOSE (Nia)  which is essentially a commitment to the collective vocation of building, developing and defending our national community, its culture and history in order to regain our historical initiative and greatness as a people. The assumption here is that our role in human history has been and remains a key one, that we as an African people share in the grand human legacy Africa has given the world. That legacy is one of having not only been the fathers and mothers of humanity, but also the fathers and mothers of human civilization, i.e., having introduced in the Nile Valley civilizations the basic disciplines of human knowledge. It is this identity which gives us an overriding cultural purpose and suggests a direction. This is what we mean when we say we who are the father’s and mothers of human civilization have no business playing the cultural children of the world. The principle of Nia then makes us conscious of our purpose in light of our historical and cultural identity.

Inherent in this discussion of deriving purpose from cultural and historical identity is a necessary reference to and focus on generational responsibility. [Frantz] Fanon has posed this responsibility in competing terms. He says, “each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, [and then] fulfill it or betray it” (48). The mission he suggests is always framed within the larger context of the needs, hopes and aspirations of the people. And each of us is morally and culturally obligated to participate in creating a context of maximum freedom and development of the people.

Finally, Purpose (Nia) suggests that personal and social purpose are not only non-antagonistic but complementary in the true communitarian sense of the word. In fact, it suggests that the highest form of personal purpose is in the final analysis, social purpose, i.e., personal purpose that translates itself into a vocation and commitment which involves and benefits the community. As we have noted elsewhere, such a level and quality of purpose not only benefits the collective whole, but also gives fullness and meaning to a persons life in a way individualistic and isolated pursuits cannot.

For true greatness and growth never occur in isolation and at other’s expense. On the contrary, as African philosophy teaches, we are first and foremost social beings whose reality and relevance are rooted in the quality and the kinds of relations we have with each other. And a cooperative communal vocation is an excellent context and encouragement for quality social relations. Thus, [W.E.B.] Du Bois’ stress on education for social contribution and rejection of vulgar careerism rooted in the lone and passionate pursuit of money is especially relevant. For again our purpose is not to simply create money markers, but to cultivate men and women capable of social and human exchange on a larger more meaningful scale, men and women of culture and social conscience, of vision and values which expand the human project of freedom and development rather than diminish and deform it.
Practice Nia every day!

Paul Hill ….NROPI

Cooperative Economics (Ujama)


Cooperative Economics (Ujama)  (oo-JAH-mah)

“To build our own businesses, control the economics of our own community and share in all its work and wealth.”

The Fourth Principle is Cooperative Economics and is essentially a commitment to the practice of shared social wealth and the work necessary to achieve it. It grows out of the fundamental communal concept that social wealth belongs to the masses of people who created it and that no one should have such an unequal amount of wealth that it gives him/her the capacity to impose unequal, exploitative or oppressive relations on others (41). Sharing wealth is another form of communitarian exchange, i.e., sharing and cooperating in general. But it is essential because without the principle and practice of shared wealth, the social conditions for exploitation, oppression and inequality as well as deprivation and suffering are increased.

Thus, as former President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania in his discussion of Ujamaa said, Ujamaa is “based on the assumption of human equality, on the belief that it is wrong for one [person] to dominate or exploit another, and on the knowledge that every individual hopes to live in a society as a free [person] able to lead a decent life, in conditions of peace with his [her] neighbor” (42). Ujamaa, Nyerere tells us, is above all human centered – concerned foremost with the well-being, happiness and development of the human person. And the assumption is that the conditions for such well-being, happiness and development is best achieved in a context of shared social wealth.

Thus, President Nyerere stated, Ujamaa rejects the idea of wealth for wealth’s sake as opposed to well-being for all. And he notes that Ujamaa is “a commitment to the belief that there are more important things in life than the amassing of riches, and that if the pursuit of wealth clashes with things like human dignity and social equality, then the latter will be given priority.” In the context of improving and insuring the well-being of the people, “the creation of wealth is a good thing and something we shall have to increase.” But he concludes that “it will cease to be good the moment wealth ceases to serve (humans) and begins to be served by (humans)”.

Ujamaa also stresses self-reliance in the building strengthening and controlling of the economics of our own community. President Nyerere said self-reliance in Ujamaa means “first and foremost… that for our development we have to depend upon ourselves and our own resources” (43). The assumption here is that we must seize and maintain the initiative in all that is ours, and that we must harness our resources and put them to the best possible use in the service of the community. This, he says does not mean denying all assistance from or work with others but of controlling policy and shouldering the essential responsibility for our own future.

Closely related to this concept of self-reliance and the responsibility it requires is the respect for the dignity and obligation of work. To respect work is to appreciate its value, reject its exploitation and engage in it cooperatively for the common good of the community. Also, inherent in Ujamaa is the stress and obligation of generosity especially to the poor and vulnerable. In the Book of Ani, we are taught that generosity is its own reciprocal reward. “Small gifts return greater and what is replaced brings abundance” (44). And in the book of Ptah-Hotep we are taught “Be generous as long as you live. What goes into the storehouse should come out. For the bread is made to be shared.”

Moreover, Ptah-Hotep informs us, “Generosity is a memorial for those who show it, long after they have departed” (45). This of course, is the ancient African ethic of care and responsibility which informs the concepts of generosity and shared social wealth. Such an ethic is expressed in one of its earliest forms in the Book of Coming Forth by Day which defines the righteous on one level as one who has “given bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked and a boat to those without one” (46). In fact, throughout the sacred teachings of ancient Egypt in particular and Africa in general, the ethic of care and responsibility is expressed in the concept of shared social wealth and service to the most disadvantaged. This of course, finds its modern philosophical expression in our social thought and struggles, as a people, around and for social justice. And this struggle is not simply to be generous to the poor and vulnerable but ultimately to end their poverty and vulnerability, so that they too can live a decent, undeprived and meaningful life. For only in such a context will they be able to pursue the truly human without the limitation imposed by poverty, deprivation or the debilitating struggle for just life’s basic necessities. To share we lath and work, then, is to share concern, care and responsibility for a new, more human and fulfilling future.

Practice Ujamaa every day!

Paul Hill …NROPI



“To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together”

The third principle is Collective Work and Responsibility (Ujima) which is commitment to active and informed togetherness on matters of common interests. It is also recognition and respect for the fact that without collective work and struggle, progress is impossible and liberation unthinkable. Moreover, the principle of Ujima supports the fundamental assumption that African is not just an identity, but also a destiny and duty, i.e., a responsibility. In other words, our collective identity in the long run is a collective future. Thus, there is a need and obligation for us as self-conscious and committed people to share our future with our own minds and hands and share its hardships and benefits together.
Ujima, as principle and practice, also means that we accept the fact that we are collectively responsible for our failures and setbacks as well as our victories and achievements. And this holds true not only on the national level, but also on the level of family and organization or smaller units. Such commitment implies and encourages a vigorous capacity for self-criticism and self-correction which is indispensable to our strength, defense and development as a people.

The principle of collective work and responsibility also points to the fact that African freedom is indivisible. It shelters the assumption that as long as any African anywhere is oppressed, exploited, enslaved or wounded in any way her or his humanity, all African people are also. It thus, rejects the possibility or desirability of individual freedom in any unfree context. Instead, it poses the need for struggle to create a context in which all can be free. Moreover, Ujima rejects escapist and abstract humanism and supports the humanism that begins with commitment to and concern for the humans among whom we live and to whom we owe our existence, i.e., our own people. In a word, a real humanism begins with accepting one’s own humanity in the particular form in which it expresses itself and then initiating and sustaining exchanges with others in the context of our common humanity. It also posits that the liberation struggle to rescue and reconstruct African history and humanity is a significant contribution to overall struggle for human liberation.

In the context of a communitarian social order, cooperation is another key aspect of Ujima. It is based on the assumption that what one does to benefit others is at the same time a benefit to him/her. Likewise, “one who injures others in the end injures him/herself” as the Yoruba proverb states. In the Lovedu community in South Africa, children are taught not to be aggressive or competitive but to be cooperative and share responsibility as a fundamental moral obligation. Even their language reflects the cooperative thrust. A child in asking for something says, “give me also,” even though s/he is the only one asking. For s/he is recognizing that s/he is not nor should s/he be the only one being given something. On the contrary, all things of value are to be shared as a common good. Likewise, the lovedu’s prayer is never just for oneself but for all of their health, blessings, and prosperity. In fact, to ask for personal without at the same time asking for the collective is both improper and immoral.
The lesson of the lovedu is that harmonious living is of paramount importance. Thus, being quarrelsome or contentious is one of the worst offenses. And striving for uncoerced or free and willing agreement is the model of behavior. Reconciliation of conflict is patient, never coercive, and is always done keeping the person in mind. The fundamental objective in conflict is not to mechanically apply the rule but to reconcile the people. For they believe that “if people do not agree, there can be no relationship.” And if they have to be coerced, there cannot be genuine agreement. In such context, collective work and responsibility is facilitated and sustained.
Finally, collective work and responsibility can be seen in terms of the challenge of culture and history. Work, both personal and collective, is truly at the center of history and culture. It is the fundamental activity by which we create ourselves, define and develop ourselves and confirm ourselves in the process as both persons and people. And it is the way we create culture and make history. It is for this reason, among others, that the Holocaust of Enslavement was so devastating. For not only did it destroy tens of millions of lives, which is morally monstrous in itself, but it also destroyed great cultural achievements, created technological and cultural arrest and thus eroded and limited human possibility Africa offered the world. In fact, the effects of this Holocaust are present even today both in terms of the problems of the African continent and those of the Diaspora.
The challenge of history and culture then is through collective work and responsibility to restore that which was damaged or destroyed and to raise up and reconstruct that which was in ruins as the ancient Egyptians taught. It is also to remember we are each cultural representatives of our people and have no right to misrepresent them or willfully do less than is demanded of us by our history and current situation as community-in-struggle. We must accept and live the principle of shared or collective work and responsibility in all things good, right and beneficial to the community.

Elder Paul Hill    NROP

Kwanzaa Principles “Self- Determination”


To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves”

The second principle of the Nguzo Saba is Self-Determination (Kujichulia). This too express itself as both commitment and practice. It demands that we as African people define, defend and develop ourselves instead of allowing or encouraging others to do this.
It requires that we recover lost memory and once again shape our world in our own image and interest. And it is a call to recover and speak our own special cultural truth to the world and make our own unique contribution to the forward flow of human history.
The first act of a free people is to shape its world in its own image and interests. And it is a statement about their conception of self and their commitment to self-determination.
Kwaida, building on the teachings of Frantz Fanon, states that each person must ask him herself three basic questions: “Who Am I? Am I Really Who I Am? and Am I All I Ought To Be?” These are questions of personal identity. More profoundly they are questions of collective identity based on historic and cultural practice. And the essential quality of that practice must be the quality of self-determination.
To answer the question of “Who Am I?” is to have and employ a cultural criteria of authenticity, i.e., criteria of what is real and unreal, what is appearance and essence, what is culturally-rooted and foreign. And to answer the question of “Am I All I Ought To Be?” is to self-consciously possess and use ethical and cultural standards which measure women, men and children in terms of quality of their thought and practice in the context of who they are and must become, in both an African and human sense.
The principle of self-determination carries within it the assumption that we have both the right and responsibility to exist as a people and make our own unique contribution to the forward flow of human history. This principle shelters the assumption that as mothers and fathers of humanity and human civilization, we have no business playing the cultural children of the world. So it reminds us of the fact that African people introduced some of the basic disciplines of human knowledge—astronomy, geometry, literature, math, medicine, ethics, advanced architecture, etc. And it urges us as a people not to surrender our historic and cultural identity to fit into the culture of another. Openness to exchange is a given, but it presupposes that one has kept enough of one’s culture to engage in exchange, rather than slavishly follow another’s lead.
The principle and practice of self-determination expresses and supports the concept and practice of Africentricity. Africentricity is a quality of thought and practice which is rooted in the cultural image and human interests of African people. To say that a perspective or approach is in an African cultural image is to say it is supportive of the just claims African people have and share with other humans, i.e., freedom from want, toil and domination, and freedom to fully realize themselves in their African fullness.
Africentricity does not seek to deny freedom or deform others’ history and humanity, but to affirm, rescue, and reconstruct its own after the Holocaust of Enslavement and other forms of oppression. Africentricity at its cultural best is an ongoing quest for a historical and cultural anchor and a foundation on which we raise our cultural future, ground our cultural production and measure their authenticity and value.
Moreover, Africentricity is an on-going critical reconstruction directed toward restoring lost and missing parts of our historical self-formation or development as a people. It is furthermore a self-conscious posing of the African experience, both classical and general, as an instructive and useful paradigm for human liberation and a higher form of human life.
Africentricity, as the core and fundamental quality of our self-determination, reaffirms our right and responsibility to exist as a people, to speak our own special truth to the world and to make our own contribution to the forward flow of human history. To do the opposite is immoral; to do less is dishonorable and ultimately self-destructive.

Paul Hill … NROPI

Kwanzaa Principle UNITY

The Principle of Umoja (UNITY)
“To strive for and maintain unity in family, community, nation and race”
Umoja is the first and foundational principle of the Nguzo Saba, for without it, all the other principles suffer. Unity is both principle and practice of togetherness in all things good and of mutual benefit. It is a principled and harmoniness togetherness, not simply being together. This is why value-rootness is so important, even indispensable. Unity as principled and harmoniness togetherness is a cardinal virtue of both classical and general African societies. Study the concept of Maat and Cieng among the Dinka.
Unity principle and practice begins in the family but presupposes value-orientation of each member. Adults and children must respect and approach unity as a moral principle of family and community not simple a political slogan. As principle and practice, this means principled and harmonious living with brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers–sharing and acting in unison. It means avoidance of conflict and quick, willing and principled resolution when it occurs. It means a yielding and gentleness of exchange. The family must reject harshness and practice gentleness, stress cooperation and avoid conflict, and be very attentive to things that would divide or create differences negative to togetherness.
The family must be, as in African culture, the focal point of unity not simply of siblings and of genders, but also of generations. One of the most important expressions of family unity is the respect and collective concern and care for the elders. Respect for elders is a cardinal article of the code of behavior of African society. One who does not respect his/her elders is seen as immoral and uncultured. Elders are respected, like the ancestors they will become, for their long life of service to the community, for their achievement, for providing an ethical model and for the richness of their experience and wisdom this has produced.
The active participation and involvement of elders in the daily life of family not only benefits them but the younger people. For it teaches them to understand and appreciate the process of growing old, gives them access to seasoned knowledge and experience and helps prevent the so-called generation gap so evident in Western society. Key to this linking of young and old is the concept of lineage which links all the living, the departed and yet unborn. This is translated in practice into extended family and the protocol, ritual, reciprocity (What is reciprocity) and remembrance this involves and requires. Early in life continental African children are taught to memorize and recite their family tree as far back as any ancestor is known. This keeps historical memory alive and reaffirms respect for those living and departed who contributed to their coming into being and cultural molding.
Now, if one starts with the family when discussing unity, the community (local and national) becomes of necessity the next level of the concern and practice of unity. The family, as it is written, is the smallest example of how the nation (or national community) works. For the relations, values,and practice one has in the family are reflection and evidence of what one will find in the community. Unity begins in the family but it extends to organizational affiliation and then unity of organizations, i.e., African American unity fronts. Mali El Shabazz (Malcom X) taught that community unity depended on everyone’s belonging to an organization, then all organizations uniting on the basis of common interests and aspirations. He posed community unity, in its two-level forms, as morally compelling. It was for him irresponsible and self-destructive not to unite around common interests and instead of glory in differences. What African Americans needed to do, he taught, is to forget their superficial organizational differences and even differences of religion and unite around their common interests, especially of liberation.
The ultimate level of unity for African people is Pan-African unity or unity of the world African community. This is also called unity of the race. Thus, Marcus Garvey says, “Up you mighty race; you can accomplish what you will,” he is talking to the world African community. The form of unity this takes is Pan-Africanisms, i.e., the struggle to unite all Africans everywhere around common interests and make African cultural, economic and political presence on the world stage both powerful and permanent. Pan-Africanism requires and urges that we see ourselves and act in history as an African people, belonging to a world community of African peoples. In this way, we self-consciously share in both the glory and burden of our history. And in that knowledge and context act to honor, preserve and expand that history in the struggle for liberation and even higher levels of human life.
Paul hill, jr