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Nia Means Purpose: Immanuel Oni

The core concept and practice of the value purpose is service: service to others, family, school, community, and the nation.
Artist Immanuel Oni.

The fifth day of Kwanzaa, celebrated this year on Saturday, December 30, recognizes Nia or “purpose,” which focuses on building and developing community in order to restore a people to their traditional greatness.

The Nia principle asks each person to be services or mission-driven on the behalf of their family, school, and community. The core concept and practice of the value purpose is service. Service to others, family, school, community, and the nation is what defines who we are and our possibilities for developing communities that provide the context for families and children to thrive and flourish. 

Brooklyn artist Immanuel Oni exemplifes Nia through his daily work. He is a teacher, architect and community justice advocate, to name a few. But, Oni's personal favorite title is "space doula," because his goal in life is to rebirth public spaces that have, as he puts it, “invisible but palpable scars" from loss or trauma. 

One of these places is Brownsville, which Oni said is steeped in stigma for its high rates of drug use and gun violence. As part of this work, he helps Brownsville teens create new narratives of the area through workshops and permanent public art installations funded by More Art and co-organized by the Brownsville Community Justice Center. 

Pedestrians can scan a QR code on each memorial-- permanent public artwork-- to hear and read about the rich histories and potential futures for these sites. 

​​“Just being able to see beyond the situation is one of the beginning aspects of healing, and sharing that vision with other people is another form of collective healing,” said Oni.

Read more about Oni's work here, and let's all find ways to make choices with purpose!

Beginning Tuesday, Dec. 26, and for the seven days of Kwanzaa, BK Reader will feature a different local resident or organization that exemplifies one of the seven principles!