Columnists Opinion

THE X FACTOR: Living the principles of Kwanzaa each and every day


Can you imagine what black America would look like if we consciously practiced the seven principles of Kwanzaa everyday; instead of seven days a week at the end of the year? Just imagine that for a second.

What would black America look like if we were principled enough to live a life of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith?

While as individuals we may exhibit most, or all of these principles at moments throughout our daily walk, there’s something to be said about more than 45 million people incorporating these seven principles into their life’s prism.

Like many black Americans, I grew up celebrating Christmas every December. While I knew the holiday was to celebrate the birth of Christ, Christmas to me (and most) was (and is) about gifts and family. And while the birth and life of Christ is acknowledged throughout the holiday season, there’s nothing about Christmas that reflects upon our personal, cultural and community responsibility. Aren’t those things Christians should be practicing every day?

I acknowledge that many black Americans are unfamiliar with the Kwanzaa celebration, or unfortunately feel disconnected from its Pan African theme, symbols and language. But if we were committed to a life of daily reflection and practice of the seven principles of Kwanzaa (Nguzo Saba), black America would be unstoppable and ever changed for generations to come.

Unity (Umoja): Need I say anymore? “Wakanda Forever.” We all know we are stronger together than apart. We’ve seen this exhibited too many times throughout our existence.

However, if today’s black America lived a life of unity, there would be hope for us to mobilize enough to create and sustain a black agenda.

Self-Determination (Kujichagulia): And according to Kwanzaa founder Maulana Karenga, this principle “reaffirms the right and responsibility of our people and all others to determine their own destiny, to live their lives in freedom and as a unique and equally valid and valuable way of being human in the world and to choose the good and pursue it.”

While that sounds good and all, in order for us to live this principle, I believe we have to be less judgmental of each other and more accepting of different people and different lifestyles. But isn’t that what Jesus would do?

In my humble opinion, if black Americans choose to be more “self-determined” in their life, then it’s going to take a lot of self reflection and personal accountability.

Collective work and responsibility (Ujima): Karenga recently wrote that the Ujima principle “speaks to our shared responsibility to build the good families, communities, society and world we want and deserve to live and flourish in — places of freedom, justice, caring, sharing, security, well-being and peace.”

If I lived back then, that sounds like a day-in-the-life at black Wall Street in the 1900s; before its horrific demise in 1921. In my mind, black Wall Street was the definition of a true black community; and where this principle of collective work and responsibility was not just a one-day reflection, but a daily way of life.

And if black America chose “to build and maintain our community together, and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems, and solve them together;” I believe we could one day begin to rebuild the foundation for black Wall Street 2.0.

Cooperative economics (Ujamaa): Simply put, “recycling black dollars.” Again, I have to revisit the existence of black Wall Street. As a reminder, it’s the nickname of a town called Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma; where in the 1921 we were said to have owned 600 businesses, 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores, six private airplanes, two movies theaters, a hospital, a bank and our own bus and school system. Can you imagine?

But as we all know, it was all burned down in less than 24 hours due to white envy, hate and institutionalized racism. While tragic, black Wall Street was a prime example of cooperative economics at work, and whose spirit and principle we should want to immolate if we want black America to ever evolve.

Purpose (Nia): Let’s have one. God put us on this earth for a reason. And we all know we’ve had a target on our backs since slavery. But we’re still here and are major forces in every area of life.

However, if we can establish a collective agenda with purpose and strategy, then we would be able to manifest the revolution we so greatly want and deserve.

Creativity (Kuumba): We already know what it looks like when black people utilize their creativity. Other than peanut butter, the stop light, and hip hop music, google “black inventors” and be amazed. And finally…

Faith (Imani): We are the most spiritual people in the world. I truly believe it’s in our DNA. But we also know that there is a generation (or two) that the black church has lost.

However, with spirituality being the core of who we are, I still have faith in the evolution of black America; and believe in the power of our unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose and creativity. Happy Holidays Wave Family, and let’s one day strive for a Nguzo Saba-based lifestyle.

Starlett Quarles is a Gen X Advocate, public speaker and host of the internet TV Talk Show, “The Dialogue with Starlett Quarles.” For more, please visit

By Starlett Quarles

Contributing Columnist