Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration in the African American community. Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor, and scholar created this to honor our roots. Like a tree, our roots are the foundation of our existence. Growing up in Washington, DC, I rememberlearning about the basic principles that are key to this celebration in school. We drafted reports about it and knew exactly what each day meant. It is a widespread practice to share Kwanzaa celebrations at home in the African American Community.
As Mr. Anthony Brooks and I, co-chair of the Fiesta PlaceCommunity Garden, we noticed these principles are a part of the garden. The founder, Deborah Turner, has grown Fiesta Place Community Garden from an unused street to a place where like-minded gardeners meet, grow, and share. Deborah has chosen to pass the baton on to keep the garden growing. We are excited abut the possibilities as we continue to grow an engaged community.
As we focus on building positive communities it is important for community engagement, corporate involvement, and uplifting of our youth. Utilizing these seven principles in everyday life is very much like gardening. Each principle
is like a seed. Each seed has a specific purpose for building strong communities. If you are not familiar with the seven principles of Kwanzaa, allow me to share.
Day 1 – Umoja (Unity)
This principle has already taken root. A united group of community members have built beds, put together a shed, and maintained the dream of future expansion. Dr. Karenga would be proud that the seed of unity within the community is already taking root.
Day 2 – Kujichagulia (Self-determination)
Over the past ten-plus years, there has been a dedicated effort to encourage growing a gardening community. Working with the Neighborhood Design Center to produce a conceptual plan was important. The determination to explore the right plan, bringing the community together continues to be important to the residents of
Day 3 – Ujima (Collective work and responsibility)
As of 2022, there is a new team in place to sow more seeds and try new things as we collectively work and share the responsibility of the Fiesta Place Community Garden. We want our community residents to connect and share, become
active in the garden, as we grow.
Day 4 – Ujamaa (Cooperative economics)
Efforts to uplift a community create a more cohesive community. Helping grow the next generation of gardeners who might consider agriculture, floriculture, or other green industry jobs is important. Everyone does not want to be a
vegetable farmer and we need to realize that. Sharing ways to re-consider a skill or trade might open a new perspective on growing vegetables and more.
Day 5 – Nia (Purpose)
One might ask, what is the purpose of having a community garden? Simply stated, to bring people together, create an outdoor space for positive activities that embrace all the community. There was a time where people bartered with each other. One household grew tomatoes. A neighbor down the street would grow peppers. Families often traded their harvests. The food we grew was not just for our households. It was crucial to the health of the community. Teaching each other how to cook, preserve, and create, came naturally. The mindset of treating the community like family continues today.
Day 6 – Kuumba (Creativity)
This is one principle of Kwanzaa that I hold close to my heart. Dr. Karenga considered it a call to action. He challenges us to use our creativity. Our goal is to grow a community space we can be proud of. It will be beneficial to our mental health and beautiful as well. By incorporating creative programming, more community outreach, and conversation – Fiesta Place Community Garden will continue to grow.
Day 7 – Imani (Faith)
Our community has had its difficulties. Through it all, the Fiesta Place Community Garden has survived. The Fiesta Place Community Garden is a space for activities, peace, and community healing. The faith of those who have supported
this project has never wavered. It is faith that will help us continue to grow this community legacy of love.
The Fiesta Place Community Garden uses the seven principles of Kwanzaa to build a better community. Celebrating Kwanzaa is like tending a garden. We need to cultivate and fertilize these principles as often as possible. Creating a
place that is good for positive mental stimulation has proven to build communities. The garden should always feed the mind, body, ad soul. The Fiesta Place Garden has a purpose in District Heights. Our purpose will continue to embrace and share with each other, as we grow.
Growing better communities are more important now than ever. It does not have to be a community garden. When creating a garden there are several basic steps. Choosing your community is like selecting the site. Preparing a fertile
environment is the second step. Including input from the community are the soil amendments. Sowing a positive seed and watching it grow is where the fun begins.
It is a process, which is not always easy. As the seed breaks dormancy and growth becomes visible, the community will come. As they become more involved, it is like cultivating the earth. Consistent involvement of an engaged community will help build a solid foundation. Fertilization is offering opportunities for community involvement. Holding space for the talented among us to share will support communal growth.
Establishing a community that creates positive engagements is something that we are all responsible for. As the world continues to change, the conversations are changing as well. Our communities look different. Keeping harmony in the
community involves inclusion, equity, and embracing diversity.
Whether you practice Kwanzaa or not, consider the principles. Imagine sowing them into the soil of your community. Observe the growth that takes place. It starts with one person noticing a need and providing a positive environment for growth. Small steps can make a significant difference. If we do not create livable, thriving communities now, when will we?
Kwanzaa celebrations begin the day after Christmas and continue for seven days. This does not mean we stop
embracing the basic principles. It should mean that we incorporate them as a part of daily living. In doing so, each day presents the opportunity of building a positive community. Like a garden, fertile soil always produces a beautiful harvest.
Do you celebrate building community as you acknowledge your ancestral roots? Is creating a beautiful community where everyone plays a role important?
The anticipation of continuing to practice the seven principles of Kwanzaa daily brings me joy. I am excited about creating positive change at Fiesta Place Community Gardens and growing a better community.
Looking for my cool season seeds and dreaming of 2022!
Teri, Cottage In The Courtby