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#EmbracingKwanzaa Day 1: Umoja


#EmbracingKwanzaa is an original series by Grits & Gospel and exclusively distributed through Blavity that is dedicated to putting a spotlight the importance of Kwanzaa's seven principles and how embracing them can better lead to our collective progress.

Today, as we kickoff Kwanzaa by celebrating so many different types of unity, perhaps it’s easier to digest them separately.

Unity in the family is deceptive. During the holidays, odds are that you’re going to see some family you haven’t seen in a while, and maybe some you don’t like. Every family, including my own, has these things, but these “things” shouldn’t matter. This is why every Christmas morning my family meets in Gray, Georgia for breakfast. It’s a charming, cozy town highlighted by a main street with McDonald’s and a post office on it. It's the same street my family has lived on for almost six generations. They make up most of the congregation at the church, so we’re able to rent it out, cook and eat a big, country breakfast there every year. It’s a quaint and humble occasion, but sometimes it’s one of the only times we see each other, so it’s a big deal. No matter what’s happening, we manage to descend upon this little church in Gray, Georgia to eat together as a family. When we agree not to let small things matter, we strive for unity in our family.

Unity in our communities is perhaps the most beautiful of them all. In fact, you can’t spell community without unity. Psychologists say that proximity (not race, age or interests) is the strongest predictor of friendship. With this said, the friends, neighbors and coworkers that make up each of our communities are some of the most important people in our lives. Honestly, we spend more time with these people than we do our own families. Whether it’s advocating for local politics, supporting local businesses or just drinking local beer, a unified community is hard to break, and even harder to escape. When we place great value on our surroundings, we strive for unity in our communities.

Unity in our nation is difficult AF. Actually, it’s damn near impossible. In a free country, full of free people, with free will and free speech, citizens are free to agree to disagree. We’ll never be on the same page. However, to be unified doesn’t mean we all have to agree. Unity is built on mutual respect and adherence to the Golden Rule. As a nation, we aren’t where we need to be (and have probably gotten worse as of late), but that doesn’t mean the lemon isn’t worth the squeeze. It is; it always is. When we treat others how we want to be treated, we strive for unity in our nation.

Unity in any race is beautiful. As black folks, we take pride in our American sub-culture. We hold dearly our food, fashion, movies, customs and culture — all things that unify us. However, there are still things that divide us: money, hair, sexuality, music, skin tone and more. Being black and successful shouldn’t entail putting down other black people, nor does being “woke” equivocate to being anti-white. How are we ever going to get up if this is how we get down? It just doesn’t work. Unity in race lies in being pro-black, not anti-white. There is stark difference. Fire can’t fight fire and hate can’t cure hate. When we learn that loving ourselves doesn’t require hating someone else, we strive for unity in race.

When we treat people the way we want to be treated, we strive for Umoja.

Next up, Kujichagulia.

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Inspired junk science from a group of friends whom occasionally have a lot to say.