THE PRINCIPLE OF Self-Determination (KUJICHUGLIA)
“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.
AFRICENTRIC THOUGHT AND PRACTICE
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