As we prepare to enter 2013, Kwanzaa principles ask us to reflect on the past, honoring our ancestors and thanking them for their wisdom, strength, and courage. 2012 — the so-called apocalyptic year, according to the now infamous Mayan calendar — has come and went with any incandescent, supernatural event, but, in my heart, I knew there was nothing to fear.
Apocalypse literally means an “uncovering.” In a year that can be summed up by the title of Malcolm X’s famous 1964 speech “The Ballot or the Bullet,” it’s the time in America for an unveiling — a time for us, as a nation bound by our collective ideals of freedom and democracy, to reassess our purpose.
The spirit of Nia — a Swahili word translated as purpose — will entrench us in those American principles throughout 2013, navigating us towards what Kwanzaa founder, Dr. Maulana Karenga, calls, “[a] self-conscious recommitment … to uphold the time-resistant moral and cultural values that ground and guide us in our daily lives.”
Although this past year was rife with violence, scandals, fraud, greed, deception, and a myriad of equally heinous calamities, Americans made a lot of headway in creating a solid foundation for truth and reconciliation. But there is nothing more honest and steadfast than our earth. Nature, specifically, is where we will renew our commitment to life and refocus and honor our true purpose.
In 2013 we cannot continue to let our increasingly conciliatory politicians, judges, entertainers, and media pundits (most of whom are puppets for corporate interests and are trained dutifully in deception by our robust public relations industry) maintain a stranglehold on discourse surrounding climate change, toxic pollution, energy, and most importantly, our food and water.
But we must not go back to nature with our current disrespectful delusions of control and hubris. In an interview for Democracy Now!, economist Manfred Max-Neef sums up how we may approach and embrace nature, humbly, when he states, “You can only attempt to understand that of which you become a part.” And understanding is holistic.
Kwanzaa teaches us that Kujichagulia, self-determination, means freedom, a recognition that nature empowers us with a purpose that stems from our own values and beliefs. Now is not the time to be afraid while breaking the rules of unknown others in order to realize our purpose. As we recommit to nature, the fear created and ingrained in us by our current culture will fade, allowing us to begin taking our purposeful steps towards regaining an intimate connection to the land.
As the earth condemns us — in the form of “natural” disasters, rising temperatures, and human malfeasance — for our reprehensible destruction and waste in the name of infinite growth and profit, we cannot afford to continue to view ourselves as separate from nature. We often hear, “well, I’m only one person, what can I do?” This surrendering statement reveals separation anxiety when we don’t understand and therefore deny nature, blinding ourselves to our purpose on earth. But there are very practical ways to relieve our stress that aren’t sold in our local drugstores or prescribed at our doctor’s offices.
Please review these simple steps to regain or recommit to the spirit of Nia in the coming year, 2013:
Go outside: One of the most pressing health concerns in the black community is Vitamin D deficiency. Depending on which stats you believe, between 75-80% of blacks do not receive enough of this essential vitamin. With health disparities for blacks widening in America, one theory claims that the root cause is that not enough blacks are bathing in the sun, stimulating their natural melatonin, which is vital to immune function.
And as I’ve mentioned before, many folks have laid a solid foundation for black people to get outside and enjoy nature in a communal atmosphere. Black Girls Run! and GirlTrek are both wonderful groups that encourage you to walk and jog your way into health while absorbing the Vitamin D you need. Additionally, Outdoor Afro is a much-needed resource website that helps bring blacks back to nature in an educational and fun, adventure-like way.
Learn about gardening: Organic produce is expensive, no doubt. And equally frustrating, I cringe when someone says eating organic is worth the price when compared to typical cancer treatments, as if they know, for certain, what causes cancer.
Studies strongly suggest that organic produce is not biologically healthier than conventional methods of growing, but where organics separates itself is by mitigating the toxicity levels created by modern pesticides and herbicides, which are rampant in conventional produce.
But to cut all this nonsense out, all you have to do is grow your food yourself. There are numerous ways to learn how to garden; from the First Lady Michelle Obama book, American Grown, to local programs geared towards helping beginning gardeners, we can all start our own urban gardens in and on our balconies, backyards, or local parks.
Eat local: One of the most dysfunctional aspects of our Westernized culture resides in our insatiable desire for imported goods — particularly dairy, meats, and produce — from faraway lands without taking in consideration the environmental externalities of the trade. It is a broken model of economics that doesn’t respect the power of ecosystems. By eating local, you are saying to greedy corporations that you want your food fresh, whether it’s meat or produce, and that you understand that sustainable economies have a reverence for life.
Have a wonderful new year and Happy Kwanzaa … Nia!