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To Survive and Thrive, Blacks Need to Live Kwanzaa All-Year-Long


Today is the first day of the week long celebration of Kwanzaa. It is a Pan-African holiday based on seven principles with seven main symbols that is celebrated for seven days starting December 26. A candle representing each principle is lit daily starting with the black candle in the center which represents umoja [OO-MO-JAH], unity.

Nguzo Saba [IN-GOO-ZO SAH-BAH] - The Seven Principles

Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce seven basic values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing family, community and culture among African American people as well as Africans throughout the world African community. These values are called the Nguzo Saba which in Swahili means the Seven Principles. Developed in 1966, by Dr. Maulana Karenga, the Nguzo Saba stand at the heart of the origin and meaning of Kwanzaa, for it is these values which are not only the building blocks for community but also serve to reinforce and enhance them.

Umoja [OO-MO-JAH] (Unity) - To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, race.
Kujichagulia [KOO-JEE-CHA-GOO-LEE-YAH] (Self-Determination) - To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves instead of being defined, named, created for and spoken for by others.
Ujima [OO-JEE-MAH] (Collective Work & Responsibility) - To build and maintain our community together and make our sisters' and brothers' problems our problems and solve them together.
Ujamaa [OO-JAH-MAH] (Cooperative Economics) - To build and maintain our own stores and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Nia [NEE-YAH] (Purpose) - To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba [KOO-OOM-BAH] (Creativity) - To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Imani [EE-MAH-NEE] (Faith) - To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

The Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols and two supplemental ones. Each represents values and concepts reflective of African culture and contributive to community building and reinforcement. The basic symbols in Swahili and then in English are:

Mazao [MAH-ZAH-O](The Crops)
These are symbolic of African harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor.

Mkeka [EM-KAY-KAH](The Mat)
This is symbolic of our tradition and history and therefore, the foundation on which we build.

Kinara [KEE-NAH-RAH] (The Candle Holder)
This is symbolic of our roots, our parent people -- continental Africans.

Muhindi [MOO-HEEN-DEE] (The Corn)
This is symbolic of our children and our future which they embody.

Mishumaa Saba [MEE-SHOO-MAH-AH SAH-BAH] (The Seven Candles)
These are symbolic of the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles, the matrix and minimum set of values which African people are urged to live by in order to rescue and reconstruct their lives in their own image and according to their own needs.

Kikombe cha Umoja [KEE-KOHM-BAY CHAH OO-MO-JAH] (The Unity Cup)
This is symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity which makes all else possible.

Zawadi [ZAH-WAH-DEE] (The Gifts)
These are symbolic of the labor and love of parents and the commitments made and kept by the children. 

The two supplemental symbols are:

Bendera (The Flag)
The colors of the Kwanzaa flag are the colors of the Organization Us, black, red and green; black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle. It is based on the colors given by the Hon. Marcus Garvey as national colors for African people throughout the world.

Nguzo Saba Poster (Poster of The Seven Principles)

Kwanzaa is not anti-Christmas neither is it the black Christmas or the black Hanukkah. Kwanzaa is a non-religious and non-political holiday. It can be celebrated with family and friends of different religious practices and beliefs. Kwanzaa is celebrated for one week of the year but practiced all year-long.

The current sociological and political atmosphere in the United States makes adopting a Kwanzaa lifestyle a matter of survival for black people. Advocating for black communities, supporting black businesses and supporting black schools is imperative as more and more safety net programs are cut as well as quality public education opportunities. 


The Successful Launch of OWN --- the Oprah Winfrey Network [VIDEO]

OK, Oprah Winfrey is my hero --- for real. Her amazing risk to start a new television network and not rest on her talk show laurels has garnered another win. This new network is fabulous. It’s the Church of Oprah 24/7 and that’s not a bad thing especially since so many people watch FOX-News. OWN is the antidote. Yeah, I went there.

The Behind the Scenes show is predictable but still interesting to watch. Some of the other entries on the OWN  schedule: searching for; Kidnapped by the Kids; Enough Already with Peter Walsh and Miracle Detectives are also nice but by far my favorite is Master Class. The first subject/teacher interviewed was Jay-Z and I have to tell you I was impressed. So impressed that I’ve seen it twice and probably on my way to seeing it again.

I know Jay-Z is a music icon; super rich and married to Beyonce. Beyond that, I’ve not been much of a fan. I do like his song “Hard Knock Life.” Since Oprah’s Master Class, I definitely respect Jay-Z. He is a personification of the result of the 10,000-hour theory discussed in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers.” This young man, no different from someone like Tiger Woods, started early in mastering his craft. With a boom box purchased by his mom and a semi-handcrafted notebook given to him by an aunt, Jay-Z, born Shawn Carter, learned the power of words.

Now, I figure that there are more Jay-Z’s caught up in America’s public housing system; public school system and the penal system. With proper focusing of talent, these young people may be able to transcend poverty and other societal ills if given the opportunity.

Jay-Z made so many profound statements during this hour-long show. He talked of the future of hip-hop; failure and success; goal setting and the power of music to combat racism among many subjects. It will be difficult for anyone to follow Jay-Z in the Master Class series and have the impact that he did. I read Twitter and Facebook comments about his episode and many viewers were impressed.

Some will likely complain that Oprah is too preachy and caters to whites but Oprah is just being Oprah. Everyone should have a purpose in Life and be true to him or herself. Oprah is a brilliant woman. Her messages are positive and most of the time transcend race to show the humanness and sameness in all of us. She knows her audience and knows the formula that works. With the everyday American citizen still reeling from the economy and other challenges, a little Oprah is good and a lot of Oprah is what we need. There is power in words and when combined with action, allows us to overcome anything. Thank you, Oprah. I am grateful to experience my OWN channel during my lifetime. To God be the glory. Now let the Church say Amen.


Related Links:

The Official Website of the Oprah Winfrey Network/OWN

Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers: The Story of Success"


© 2006-2011, Vanessa: Unplugged!, All Rights Reserved

First Lady Michelle Obama Helps Needy in DC


Whether you agree with their politics or not, you must admit that, the Obamas have changed the flavor of America. They really are the leaving, breathing version of the Huxtables they just have fewer kids.

It's not likely that their desire to serve the public and help those in need is fabricated. Neither Barack or Michelle Obama were born with a silver spoon in their mouth. They are hard-working, accomplished Americans who still remember their roots and that's refreshing.

It's almost unbelievable that the First Family is so much like many of the families I know. They still don't seem to have bought into the isolation of the presidency and restraint of constant security. They are the family that this country needs during this time.

While Michelle Obama's wardrobe may include more designer fashions than usual for her, she is still very much every woman. It was great to see her helping at Miriam's Kitchen in DC. I just can't imagine Cindy McCain doing the same thing without somehow seeming out of place.

Don't get twisted, I'm not implying that Cindy McCain's a bad person just that it would be difficult for her to relate to the financial issues many Americans are facing since she comes from American wealth.

Until our country's economic situation bottoms and then balances itself out, we need the encouragement and assurance of the Obama Family to help see us through.

Photo: Sloan/Getty


© 2009, Vanessa: Unplugged!,

Vote for this blog for Best Political Blog and for Best Blog Design in the 2009 Bloggers Choice Awards.


We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For

I can never see this video too many times. It's message is simple and pure. We are the change we want to see in the world and we can make a difference. We sink or swim together. Vote for change and make a difference.

In Solidarity: Global Day for Darfur

Stop the Crisis in Darfur

Because of the leadership and commitment of Danielle Vyas at Modern Musings, I am humbled to present this blog post on the Crisis in Darfur. As our brothers and sisters continue in war/genocide, the brutality continues to deplete its most natural resources: human lives. This post serves to provide information on the crisis and what we can do to stop it.

Let's start with background information on Darfur and the Sudan. One of the most informative and comprehensive sources of information on this issue is Here is an excerpt of the background information on Darfur.

Sudan is the largest country in Africa, located just south of Egypt on the eastern edge of the Sahara desert. The country's major economic resource is oil. But, as in other developing countries with oil, this resource is not being developed for the benefit of the Sudanese people. As much as 70 percent of Sudan's oil export revenues are used to finance the country's military.1

Darfur, an area about the size of Texas, lies in western Sudan and borders Libya, Chad and the Central African Republic. It has only the most basic infrastructure and development. The approximately 6 million inhabitants of Darfur are among the poorest in Africa. They exist largely on either subsistence farming or nomadic herding. Even in good times, the Darfuri people face a very harsh and difficult life; these are not good times in Darfur.

The current crisis in Darfur began in 2003. After decades of neglect, drought, oppression and small-scale conflicts in Darfur, two rebel groups – the Sudanese Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) – mounted an insurgency against the central government. These groups represent agrarian farmers who are mostly "non-Arab black African" Muslims from a number of different tribes. President al-Bashir's response was brutal. In seeking to defeat the rebel movements, the Government of Sudan increased arms and support to local tribal and other militias, which have come to be known as the Janjaweed.2 Their members are composed mostly of "Arab black African" Muslims3 who herd cattle, camels, and other livestock. They have wiped out entire villages, destroyed food and water supplies, and systematically murdered, tortured, and raped hundreds of thousands of Darfuris. In previous internal conflicts (in the south, center, and east of the country), the Sudanese government also employed the tactic of using proxy militias to attack the civilian populations that have been thought to support insurgencies. These attacks often occur with the direct support of the Government of Sudan's armed forces or at the very least, with their tacit approval.

This scorched-earth campaign by the Sudanese government against Darfuri civilians has, through direct violence, disease, and starvation, already claimed as many as 400,000 lives. It has spilled over into neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic. In all, about 2.3 million Darfuris have fled their homes and communities and now reside in a network of internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Darfur, with over 200,000 more living in refugee camps in Chad. These refugees and IDPs are almost entirely dependent on the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations for their basic needs – food, water, shelter, and health care.

Approximately 1 million more Darfuris still live in their villages, under the constant threat of bombings, raids, murder, rape and torture. Until the arrival of the long-awaited United Nations peacekeeping force, authorized by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1769, actually takes place, the safety of these civilians depends on the presence of the underfunded and undermanned African Union peacekeeping force. Known as AMIS, the force, in Darfur since October 2004, numbers just 7,400 troops and personnel. AMIS lacks a civilian protection mandate as well as adequate means to stop the violence. Its sole mandate is to monitor and report ceasefire violations and it has done little more, due to its limited mandate but also because of its anemic capacity.

In the summer of 2007, outbreaks of violence between some of the Arab tribes that worked together as part of the Janjaweed began to occur more frequently. This latest mutation of the conflict, is indicative of the ever-changing dynamic of this crisis. The United Nations recently reported that tribal and factional fighting is now killing more people than the clashes between the government or government-backed militias and rebel forces.

Another new dynamic, reported by various news sources, is the tens of thousands of non-Darfuris arriving in Darfur in recent months, with many ending up on lands belonging to displaced Darfuris. Different news outlets have reported slightly varied information about Arab groups from neighboring countries, like Niger and Chad, resettling in Darfur. Many news reports cite the same rumors and unconfirmed reports of third-party nationals being given Sudanese identity documents, as well as other evidence of a planned scheme to permanently settle Arabs from outside the Sudan on the lands of displaced Darfuris. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that as many as 30,000 people have left Chad for Darfur in a steady flow since early 2007.



The Crisis in the Sudan can be resolved. The Darfuris can reclaim their land and rebuild their nation.

Here's what needs to be done:

The Save Darfur Coalition insistently calls for various measures to pressure Khartoum to end the genocide, something it has made clear it will not do in response to diplomacy alone. Such steps should include:

  • World leaders must make peace in Darfur a top priority: It has been over two years since President Bush declared the situation in Darfur genocide, and yet it continues. The President and his administration have made little progress; the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. The performance of nearly all other world leaders, with few exceptions, has been even worse. The situation in Darfur demands more than tough rhetoric. The President must take a leadership role in maintaining a coalition of key international actors to force Khartoum to end the killing. Arab and African leaders must also take on a proactive role in mediating an end to this crisis that has brewed in their midst for nearly half a decade now. In the immediate term, all U.N. member states must participate, whether financially, logistically, or through troop or equipment contributions to a swift and effective deployment of the hybrid force authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1769.
  • China must use its leverage with Khartoum: China has a great deal of influence on Sudan given its status as Sudan's top trading partner, its strong military ties to Sudan, and its protective role in the U.N. Security Council. Although China did not exercise its veto, as it had vowed to do early on, and voted for Resolution 1769, it did significantly weaken the final text of the resolution. China's vote in favor of 1769 came only after it managed to remove language calling for sanctions if Sudan fails to cooperate. Additionally, the hybrid force's mandate to "seize and dispose" of weapons found in Darfur in contravention of the arms embargo (UNSCR 1556/2004) was diluted in the final text, allowing the force to merely "monitor" them. China has displayed increased unease and engagement regarding Darfur, but more must be done. China is deeply image-conscious, especially with regard to the growing possibility that the 2008 Olympic Games will be marred by Darfur-related activities. Chinese oil investments in Sudan, which benefit the regime but not the people and help fund government military operations in Darfur, are also susceptible to pressure through the growing global divestment movement. All this leverage needs to be consistently applied to China, which is in a unique position to influence Khartoum's calculations.
  • Humanitarian Aid: Humanitarian aid in Darfur must be sustained while efforts are made to protect civilians and broker an agreement for a lasting end to the conflict. This means continued funding of aid programs and an international push to end Sudan's obstruction of aid efforts. The Government of Sudan is also guilty of innumerable violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, which have hampered the effective delivery of aid. Such actions must be brought to an end immediately. Given repeated U.N. and NGO warnings of the fragility of their efforts, the international community must prepare a contingency plan for a collapse of current aid programs.

1 Jeffrey Gettleman, "Far Away from Darfur's Agony, Khartoum is Booming," New York Times, 23 October 2006.


Crisis in Darfur



Rev. King’s Dream Deferred

Visitors look up from the street at a wreath hanging on

the balcony of the former Lorraine Motel, now part of

the National Civil Rights Museum, where Martin Luther

King Jr was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.


Today is the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There has been media coverage of this somber date with CNN broadcasting a splendid special report with heretofore unseen footage and interviews of individuals connected with the date.

There's controversy over whether James Earl Ray actually killed King and an especially noteworthy offering of the truth on the view of King by the rest of America; especially our government.

King was been beatified subsequent to his death but his powerful words were very much despised by our governmental leaders. While King espoused peace, he also criticized our government's involvement in the Viet Nam War. He fought for the civil rights of oppressed people and began a campaign against poverty. King was a visionary.

Sadly, the United States has yet to overcome many of the challenges of King's era. There are blacks, Latinos and women in positions of power in government, business, education and the Arts. But for the masses of blacks and other minorities, the King dream is still deferred.


Happy Sunday, I’m stealing your newspaper!

I woke up this morning to my Dad yelling at a guy who was stealing the newspaper from the front lawn. Huh? What is this neighborhood coming to? The guy put the newspaper back and continued walking west on the sidewalk. I didn't see his face but my Dad said he is a neighbor. Happy Sunday!

I didn't go down to the guy's house, although I wanted to. I wanted to yell and scream and shout and call a neighborhood meeting on the spot. I didn't do it; but I sure wanted to. That's not the first time the newspaper has been missing but we thought the delivery guy was slacking.

The Sunday Miami Herald costs what? A dollar?

I don't know anything about the guy other than my Dad says he's Haitian and lives in the pink house about three houses away. The family that owns the place is very nice and they have been good neighbors. I don't know if the guy is their relative or not and I really don't care. Supposedly, he passes our house frequently. My Dad thinks he will apologize but I don't. He had the walk of a seasoned thief. You know, he was caught in the act and he didn't run or even walk fast. Even if he does apologize, I won't believe him.

Short of going to law enforcement, I'd like to not just let the issue go. The big 'but' to this situation is that I didn't actually see the guy, my Dad did and he doesn't want to pursue the issue. Maybe it's a guy thing. The newspaper thief will surely pass that way again and he'll not walk by without me saying something to him.

To me, it's a matter of stealing a newspaper escalating to stealing one of our vehicles or burglarizing our homes or someone losing their life. I'm a firm believer of nipping things in the bud. If you don't I think that leads some folks to believe they have permission to try you again.

In the meantime, I am also reminded that 'fences make good neighbors."

What would you do?

Why I Love Brad Pitt: Making It Right in New Orleans

Brad Pitt, Steve Bing Plan New 150-Home Community in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward

Brad Pitt expanded his commitment to New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward by announcing plans for a new community of homes in the area hardest-hit by the worst natural disaster in American history. He is partnering with Steve Bing in creating the 150 affordable and sustainable homes, which are the first effort of Pitt's "Make it Right" project.

Pitt announced his plan at the meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, where he challenged attendees to join him and Bing in rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward. Pitt pledged to match $5 million in contributions to the project. Bing has pledged to match $5 million in contributions as well, for a total of $10,000,000 in matching funds.

The spirit of the community's culture is central to Make It Right. "The heart and soul of New Orleans, specifically the people of the Lower 9th Ward, are paramount to this project," said Pitt. "The words of one elderly man who is determined to return to New Orleans led to the name of our organization: he asked us, directly simply and profoundly, to help make it right. So that's what we're doing. We're going to help to make it right with 150 sustainable, affordable houses—houses that stand out for their design both aesthetically and structurally, so that these people can live in beautiful safe structures that respect their spirit and provide a good quality of life."

Continue reading "Why I Love Brad Pitt: Making It Right in New Orleans" »

New Orleans and Gulf Coast Residents Still Need Help, Give a Day of Service

Here's an opportunity to help rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Far too many former residents of the area are still displaced and need to return to re-claim their land. This is an opportunity to actually do something to help that historic area.

More than two years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, some neighborhoods still remain devastated and uninhabited.

Join Tavis Smiley, Tom Joyner and the State of the Black Union panelists in partnership with the Office of Lt. Governor Mitchell Landrieu to assist in the clean-up and rebuild of New Orleans.

Friday, February 22, 7:00am to 3:00pm
(Service Orientation: Thursday, February 21, 7:00pm – 8:00pm)

Volunteer to help rebuild New Orleans! The goal is for 1,000 people to come out in their sweats and work boots and help rebuild New Orleans.

Attendees will be assigned to one of six projects.
Project 1 – Build a Home
Project 2 – Beautify a City Park
Project 3 – Build a Playground
Project 4 – Demolish a Home
Project 5 – Beautify a School Yard & Donate Books
Project 6 – Build Shelves for Public Library and Donate Books

Volunteers will receive a T-shirt, service kit (gloves, face mask, sponsor giveaways), continental breakfast, box lunch, and Reserved Seating at State of the Black Union 2008.

Title Partner
Office of Lt. Governor Mitchell Landrieu

National Sponsor
Wells Fargo

Lead Partners
Habitat for Humanity
Trinity Christian Community
Xavier University
Recovery School District
New Orleans Public Library
PBS & PRI - Public Radio International


No Electricity and Daunte’s Inferno

The electricity at my home has gone off and on as the rain and thunder and lightning continue. The only respite was during the shellacking that the Raiders gave the Dolphins and Daunte Culpepper exacted revenge.

I am not a Dolfan so I don't usually pay any attention to their games unless they're playing a team that I really like. I didn't like the way the Dolphin management got rid of Culpepper. No faith in Daunte's knees, huh? I'm sure they are rather embarrassed about leeting him go. My dislike for the Dolphins management actually goes back to the way they got rid of Coach Don Shula; it was not cool not matter how they tried to dress it up.

Professional sports is a business but it's still a business that functions because of people. I'd swear that the Dolphins have some kind of curse on them since unceremoniously dumped Shula.

Anyhoo, more important to me than the football game is the fact that the electricity flow is so inconsistent in my neighborhood I counted seven outages today. I'll call FPL on Monday to speak with a supervisor. The electricity poles in the area could be weak or the lights could go out for any number of reasons. Whatever the deal is, FPL won't be able to say it wasn't reported.