Kwanzaa Culinarians

Recipes and Food Stories from the African Diaspora

My Reflections on Ujima by Christa Shelton

Christa Shelton of Veggin' Out with ChristaUjima (oo-JEE-mah): Collective work and responsibility: Helping others within the community. As I was reflecting on the principles of Kwanzaa, the one that stands out to me the most is Ujima. While I believe that all of the principles are important, this one speaks to me the most due to my passion concerning our community regarding our health. Unfortunately, African-Americans are disproportionately susceptible to many diseases that can be combated with a proper diet. Diabetes is 60% more common in black Americans than in white Americans. Strokes kill 4 times more 35- to 54-year-old black Americans than white Americans. Nearly 42% of black men and more than 45% of black women aged 20 and older have high blood pressure. Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for people of most ethnicities in the United States. However, African-Americans have the highest death rate percentage at 25.8.

As you can see, these numbers are definitely alarming and my sense of responsibility to the community comes in the form of writing daily about the many health benefits of veganism. Veganism has definitely gained momentum within the past few years and continues to make headlines as many well known public figures have openly credited a vegan diet as the catalyst for achieving better health. With documentaries such as Forks Over Knives exposing how important our diet is to our overall health, many more are taking note and making changes. It is my goal to continue to demystify the vegan diet and prove how accessible and delicious this lifestyle truly is. I know many feel that veganism is extreme, but so are the many diseases from which we suffer when we don’t reflect more on what we put on our plates. We should all hold a sense of responsibility to educate ourselves and our children about the importance of whole foods.

I encourage those that feel it would be too difficult to become a vegan, to at least cut back on meat consumption. I say if you can change just one thing that will benefit your health, you are one step closer to feeling better and ultimately living a higher quality longer life. There are a plethora of resources, recipes and restaurants popping up all over the place dedicated to helping people understand and embrace vegan living. So, I would encourage you to include some vegan dishes in your Kwanzaa gatherings this year. Need some inspiration? The Vegan Peace Blog provides an exhaustive list of vegan creations you can find here to make for your Kwanzaa celebration and beyond. I wish you a wonderful and thoughtful Kwanzaa and a prosperous and healthy New Year!

Christa blogs daily at Veggin’ Out with Christa. and is a weekly columnist for GoodVeg. You can also find her on Twitter and on Facebook. She is also available for health coaching and speaking engagements.

About The Duo Dishes

Chrystal Baker is a private cook, recipe developer, culinary production artist and freelance contributor to, as well as a culinary production team member for various TV shows, commercials, photo shoots and online content. She maintains, a Los Angeles-based food blog that features dishes influenced by family tradition, regional fare and worldly flavors. She also shares travel stories and links to published work via a personal blog, You can follow her trail on Instagram and Twitter-- @AnynEverywhere and @TheDuoDishes.

2 comments on “My Reflections on Ujima by Christa Shelton

  1. Christa
    December 26, 2011

    Thanks so much Shamil!


  2. shamil owens (@Brutusbuckeyez)
    December 21, 2011

    Love the article, especially the statement “I know many feel that veganism is extreme, but so are the many diseases from which we suffer when we don’t reflect more on what we put on our plates.”


Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on December 18, 2011 by in 2011, Personal Story, Ujima and tagged , , , , , , , .

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Learn more about Kwanzaa

The word "Kwanzaa" comes from the phrase, "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first-fruits." Kwanzaa's extra "a" evolved as a result of a particular history of the Organization Us. It was clone as an expression of African values in order to inspire the creativity of our children. In the early days of Us, there were seven children who each wanted to represent a letter of Kwanzaa. Since kwanza (first) has only six letters, we added an extra "a" to make it seven, thus creating "Kwanzaa." To learn more about Kwanzaa, visit the Official Kwanzaa Website.

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