Today is actually the third day of Kwanzaa, but I wanted to give my reflections of yesterday for a reason. It was KUJICHAGULIA, the day of self-determination, and it was full of just that.
Kujichagulia is embodied by the right to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. With that all in mind, yesterday started with time listening to a TedX talk by Simon Sinek about how great leaders inspire action. I took notes, wrote about why I do what I do. Then, took my son to the library and while there I made sure to get books for me too. I was sure to post a picture on Facebook to share what I checked out:
My jewels from the library are simple:
The Joy of Appreciative Living – Jacqueline Kelm
Bringing Out the Best in Others – Thomas Connellan
The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers – Meg Meeker
The Everything Guide to Crowdfunding – Thomas Elliott Young
Not long after that I was laying down with a migraine that was accompanying days of body aches and sweats. But, to spite that I knew it was the second day of Kwanzaa so I was determined to be at the Pan African Connection in Dallas, Texas. With my sister and son in tow, we drove to spend the evening with community. We had the opportunity to watch a fantastic film called The Black Candle about the creation of Kwanzaa. It was on the way back that self-determination showed up.
Determination is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “firmness of purpose, resoluteness.” As we drove from Dallas to Arlington on I-30 we encountered a huge pothole that took out the front passenger tire. With the cold wind blowing, I was determined to get the tire off, the spare on, and get home. That was easier said than done. My sister and I are adept at changing tires. Thankfully we were reared by a woman who embodied self-determination as well. She taught us to check oil, pay attention to the pressure of the tires, and to be able to care for ourselves. Those lug nuts proved to be more than we wanted to wrestle with and the cold air partnered to make for a simple decision: CALL TRIPLE A. And that we did.
However, while sitting with my sister we talked about what self-determination meant to us. And it brought to mind how people had told us about what girls should wear or play. I remembered being in high school and switching from playing basketball and volleyball to only volleyball. I can’t tell you how many times I was told that “Black people don’t play volleyball.” My sister remembered being told that she cannot play hockey or football because of what girls do. Additionally, we talked about the things we did not do because of what we thought we should do or what someone else may have said that blocked our determination to pursue. I once wanted to be an architect and use old building to house homeless people. Someone in the neighborhood told me that I was not getting good enough grades in math, and said “you have to have god grades in math to do that you don’t have them” so I didn’t pursue it past high school. What we came to were a few things 1) adults need to stop placing their ideas of what is possible on children, 2) determining my life from now forward is up to me without apologies, and 3) kujichagulia today defining who we are personally, naming ourselves and embracing the name, creating our life for ourselves, and speak up and out for ourselves assertively.
The Triple A car came, changed the tire, and we were off. Returning there were two hungry passengers, we stopped at Taco Cabana, ordered, got it to-go, walk out, and I see the rear passenger tire is flat too. Well, well, well. Here we go. We get in the car thinking that we might be able to make it home, instead, I was determined to simply let it be. Since we were in a parking lot, I parked and called a friend to pick us up. When I got home I was upset, frustrated, sad, annoyed, and tired. We moved not long ago and I’m still getting grounded in the city, looking for a permanent place, and balancing it all. And not feeling like I’m doing well with all. This simply added one more thing to it all. Although I was feeling of that I was determined to make it all work out. Below is what I wrote on my Facebook page as a determination to define myself and situation, name my circumstance, create my world, and speak for myself in an opportunity to spread self-determination to others as well – as is what I will leave for you too:
I wish being thankful meant that everything was exactly how I want them to be. I wish that it meant I never had upsets, setbacks, or disappointment. I wish it meant everything was always sunshine. Thankfulness is simply being and showing gratitude and appreciation for people and things as they are, and are not.
All this comes from the past 4 hours of unexpected happenings. It would be easy for me to slide down a wall somewhere, cry, be in despair, and lament the whole situation. A good cry has no shame (I just finished), being upset is par for the course (I’m in that), and a lament can turn into action (that may show up in the morning). I’m not happy, smiling, and joyous at this moment, however, I can be grateful for the challenge because it is an opportunity to take a new perspective, be thankful for what IS, be creative in the solution, keep moving forward, and transform the future. It doesn’t feel like it at this moment, yet, I know that feelings are only a sensation not an indication of possibility.
I encourage whoever needs to read this to be thankful no matter what you see, feel, or hear. Whatever your “it” may be is temporary, circumstantial, and can be solved with determination, creativity, community, communication, and taking action. It may not feel extraordinary, fantastic, fun, or be comfortable, but that doesn’t determine the outcome.
COME BACK FOR …Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together….and the conclusion of this tire story!