Nguzo Saba

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The Nguzo Saba: Principles & Practice Critical to the Rescue and Reconstruction of Black Family, Community, and Culture - Pt. 1

By Tukufu Kalonji and Clovis Honoree

For more than fifty year’s Afro Americans have embraced the indestructible principles of the Nguzo Saba. They have continued to learn how to incorporate them in daily life, They have memorized, conceptualized, internalized, embraced and practiced the Nguzo Saba in unique and universal ways.

Constructed and asserted by Dr. Maulana Karenga and the Organization Us, these principles have become widely known as the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, and Black Community development. The seven principles have, throughout time, proven to be a truly enduring cultural value system that gives African peoples identity, purpose and direction in their lives.

The Nguzo Saba has been utilized in varied institutions as a philosophical base and value framework for programs in education, human and social service, political organizing, prisoner rehabilitation, environment preservation, and more.

The Nguzo Saba (the seven principles, first in Swahili and second in English) are as follows:

1. Umoja - Unity

To strive for and maintain unity in the family community, nation and race. 

2. Kujichagulia -Self-Determination 

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

3. Ujima - Collective Work & Responsibility

To build and maintain our community together and make our sisters and brothers problems our problems and to solve them together;

4. Ujamaa - Cooperative Economics

To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together;

5. Nia - Purpose 

To make our collective vocation building and developing our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness,

6. Kuumba  - Creativity

To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it, and

7. Imani - Faith

To believe with all our heart in ourselves, in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and, the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Consequently, in each principle there is an inherent guide toward the good and the positive with a spiritual quality and socially empowering attribute that integrates educational and therapeutic elements. Dr. Karenga self-consciously constructed the Nguzo Saba to foster positive personal and communitarian growth and development. As a cultural value system that serves our various needs, the Nguzo Saba then guides and directs us to what we should do, rather telling us what not to do.

By providing a proactive philosophical framework for community, personal and spiritual behavior and development, Dr. Karenga has laid a foundation for shared values. These values are essential for the development of both the individual, for the sake of the community (village) and for the community, for the sake of the individual.

Following this introductory article will be a series of articles; each one focusing respectively on each of the principle of the Nguzo Saba. Moreover we will identify organizations in San Diego that we believe are utilizing the Nguzo Saba whether it is on a conscious or unconscious level.