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Kujichagulia, the Second Principle of Kwanzaa, Means 'Self-Determination'

'To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.'
Lani Halliday Photo: BK Reader

The second day of Kwanzaa honors Kujichagulia -- self-determination-- and is celebrated on December 27.

The second principle of the Nguzo Saba, as well as all seven principles, expresses itself as both commitment and practice.

On this, the second day, families are meant to light the red candle (although the order and number of colors can be flexible based on personal choice).

According to The red candle is symbolic of the effort a person, family, school or community makes. The lesson is that we light the red candle to reinforce the value of work and effort. Frederick Douglass reminds us that "If there is no struggle there is no progress."

Each person must ask him or herself three basic questions:

1.  Who am I?
2.  Am I really who I say I am?
3.  Am I all that I ought to be?

These are questions of history and culture, not simply queries or questions of personal identity. They are questions of personal identity. More profoundly, they are questions of collective identity, based and borne out in historical and cultural practice. And the essential quality of that practice must be the quality of self-determination.

To answer the question of "Who am I?" correctly, then, is to know and live one's history and to practice one's culture.

To answer the question of "Am I really who I am?" is to have and employ a cultural criterion of authenticity, i.e., criteria of what is real and unreal, what is appearance and essence, what is culturally-rooted and foreign.

And to answer the question of "Am I all I ought to be?" is to self-consciously possess and use ethical and cultural standards which measure men, women and children in terms of the quality of their thought and practice in the context of who they are and must become - in both an African and human sense.

Brooklyn resident Lani Halliday is a perfect example of practicing Kujichagulia. Long before launching her gluten-free bakery, Brutus Bakeshop, Halliday was a 19-year-old baking apprentice at her local bakery.

During that time, she learned the art of baking, mastering how to bake artisan breads like ciabatta and challah. But after years at work, Halliday, also a graduate of a French pastry school, developed a wheat allergy and made the hard decision to leave the bakeries behind due to the effects they were having on her health.

However, it didn't it stop her from baking. Instead, Halliday pivoted and learned how to bake gluten-free treats.

"I utilize a conventional baking framework for the techniques," Halliday said. "I just sort of amassed familiarity with the differences over the years."

To read Halliday's story on BK Reader, go here.

Today, let's all practice self-determination!


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