Community voices shape the future. Each voice is essential for preserving cultural heritage, exploring historical roots, and reimagining the future. At Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute, we use the arts and humanities as our framework for community building and engagement. We provide opportunities for storytelling with the goal in mind of preserving the cultural history of the African Diaspora.
We also write and publish literature that introduces youth to key Black difference-makers while also teaching the principles of servant leadership. In addition, we host community dialogues to discuss current social justice issues (e.g., racial disparities in education, healthcare, criminal justice) and explore arts, literature and culture. The culmination of our efforts is the creation of a space for communities of color to build a more just and inclusive society. This is in furtherance of the Zimbabwean proverb: “Until the Lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the Hunter.”
A brief history of Kwanzaa
The theme of our new Communities Creates: Youth Writing Competition is the history of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa provides an opportunity to celebrate African culture. It is a time for African Americans to learn about Africa and their heritage. Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration. It starts on Dec. 26 and ends on Jan. 1.
Kwanzaa means “first” in Swahili. It is a celebration of the first fruit of the harvest. This is when people gather the crops from the land and express gratitude for their daily sustenance. They also celebrate the gift of family, friends, and community.
In 1966, Dr. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa. He decided to bring the African American community together as a united front in the pursuit of harmony, peace, and justice. The goal is to never forget the meaning of community and where you come from. Kwanzaa is a time to learn about African history and community values.
Each day, you can learn and apply a community value:
1. Unity (umoja): Unity means coming together as one people.
2. Self-determination (kujichagulia): This means to be responsible for yourself.
3. Collective responsibility (ujima): Ujima means working together.
4. Cooperative economics (ujamaa): This means supporting local Black-owned businesses.
5. Purpose (nia): Nia means remembering African and African American history.
6. Creativity (kuumba) This means unleashing the power in your hands to transform and lead change.
7. Faith (imani): Imani means hope for the future.
Kwanzaa Youth Writing
Inspired by umoja (unity) and nia (purpose), Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute launched a youth writing competition. We hosted a two-part workshop series that focuses on inspiring youth of color to become literary artists who share stories that reflect their rich cultural heritage.
One lucky youth writer will be eligible to win a $200 prize. The book will be published and the winner will be honored during our annual community celebration. All Minnesota residents of African American heritage who are ages 8-17 are eligible to enter. The writers should submit a Kwanzaa-themed fiction or nonfiction children’s book. The book types include: Board book – 50-125 words (ages 0-4) and Picture book – 300 words (ages 4-8).
All submissions are due by June 31, 2021.
This activity is made possible with a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council through the Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund.
Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute is committed to inspiring the next lion and lioness who will use their voice to make a difference in the world.