On Sunday December 30, 2012, Rev. Vincent Fuqua spoke to the congregation at the San Francisco location of Community Miracles Center. This was in the midst of the African American, Kwanzaa holiday. It was the fifth day of Kwanzaa, the day when the principle of "Nia," or Purpose, is focused on. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that lecture.
"Heri Za Kwanzaa!" Happy Kwanzaa! It's always great for me to speak here, to be part of the Community Miracles Center. I always enjoy speaking here. I appreciate doing the Kwanzaa service every year. Before I started doing it, a lot of you may know, Rev. Tony actually did it. He did a remarkable job for several years. When I became a Reverend, he immediately said, "You're doing it now." (laughter – Rev. Vincent is African American. Rev. Tony is not. Rev. Vincent was ordained Oct. 2, 2004 and did the Kwanzaa service that year on December 26, 2004)
(Rev. Tony who is in the audience:) "I don't know why I had that idea" (more laughter.) I don't know why either. Rev. Tony just said, "You're taking it over." Which is great. The thing is here at the Community Miracles Center – and it's something I really appreciate about the CMC – we observe all the holidays. A couple of weeks ago Rev. Tony actually gave a talk on the Jewish holiday Chanukah. (Vol.26.No.9/Dec.2012) It's great how we integrate all the events that exist in this world. I'm very, very grateful for that.
An important part of Kwanzaa is the language, which is the Swahili language. Swahili is a pan-African language, the official language of several African countries, thus it reflects the African American's commitment to the whole of Africa, and the whole African culture, rather than looking at specific ethnic groups, nationalities, or a specific African culture. That's why Swahili was chosen.
The first greeting today was "Heri Za Kwanzaa!" which means "Happy Kwanzaa!" The other greeting which would include the principles of Kwanzaa is "Habari gani?" which means "What's new?" When that's asked we are supposed to reply with the principle for the day which is "Nia." So we're going to do that.
"Habari gani?" And you? (from the congregation) "Nia." There you go. Good job.
As you can see here, part of the Kwanzaa celebration has an altar in it. (There is a full Kwanzaa altar set up on the speaking platform.) Each year we continue to have our own altar here, which I am very grateful for. The main thing on the altar is the "Kinara," which is the candle holder. This holds all the different candles that reflect the seven principles of Kwanzaa. As you can see, the first one in the middle is the black candle. That represents the first day, which is Unity. That brings together the whole thing. When we think about Unity, which is very "Course-like," we get reminded of how we all are gathered as one group and not separate individuals. I'm glad that Unity represents the whole concept of Kwanzaa as we get started. After that black candle, you have the red candles and the green candles.
The way this works is each day has a principle. The first day is the black candle, Unity. The second day you light the black candle and the first red candle. On the third day you light the black candle, the first red candle, and the first green candle. Then you continue this for the next four days, and you keep alternating red and green candles. The reason why you light a red candle before you light a green candle is because the red candles represent the struggles that the African American community went through, and the green candles represent the future. I think this is remarkable because, "Yes," it's important for us to be aware of the struggles that we all went through in our mirs, but it is also important to take the time and look forward to the future. I think this is a remarkable way to look at our mirs. I also think one of the points to keep in mind is that even though Kwanzaa is considered an African American holiday, it actually reflects all of us, regardless of what backgrounds we come from. Even though some of the Kwanzaa celebration appears to be Afrocentric, think about how these concepts actually relate to you: your culture, your ethnicity, your community – whomever you are involved with. That's what I believe to be the essence of what Kwanzaa reflects upon.
One of the seven principles of Kwanzaa is about looking at organizing and enriching our relationships to each other, on a personal, but also on a community level. It is also about learning how to establish our own standards, our own commitments, and our own priorities, that will exist within ourselves. Kwanzaa is about learning how to look at our recovery and reconstruction of our historical memory and achievements. These are great things to look at.
This year I found out something about Kwanzaa that I had not realized, but had always wondered. Why did they decide to do seven days? Why did they choose the number seven? According the research that I did, the reason why they used the number seven was, first, it was an easy number to remember. Second, having just seven principles was easier for people to actually obtain. "Okay." I would never have thought of it that way. That's the reason why they chose seven days and seven principles. They just thought seven was the number to use. That's how that came about. Kwanzaa is about contributing to an ongoing and extending set of Afrocentric, communitarian values. These can relate to all of our values.
Kwanzaa was started by Dr. Maulana Karenga and first celebrated on December 26, 1966. It was born out of the world-wind of social and political changes of the sixties. Every year, Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 to January 1st – seven days. Kwanzaa is about looking at our culture. It is a celebration of "first fruits," or a time of harvest and gathering. It is also about reverence. There is a strong focus on that. It's a time to gather together to celebrate the heritage that does exist within all of us, and to look at our achievements. A lot of times we're very good at thinking about the things that aren't going well with us, all the negative things that happen to us. We can easily focus on that part for hours on end. We don't take the time to focus on our achievements that really exist. That is one of the things the originators of Kwanzaa addressed.
As I mentioned, Kwanzaa came out of the sixties. As you know, the sixties was a time when there were a lot of changes. It was the time when the modern women's movement was coming about. It was the time of the civil rights movement and the gay movement. The sixties was a very powerful time. It was also the time when Helen Schucman was first getting the channeling for A Course In Miracles. It was a very, very powerful time during the sixties. It makes sense that so many things were coming together then.
As I mentioned, there are seven principles of Kwanzaa:
One is "Umoja," which is Unity. That's the first day.
The second day is "Kujichagulia," which is Self-Determination.
The third day is "Ujima," which is Collective Work and Responsibility.
The fourth day is "Ujamaa," which is Cooperative Economics.
The fifth day is "Nia," which is Purpose.
The sixth day is "Kuumba," which is Creativity.
The seventh principle is "Imani," which is Faith.
Think about this. It starts off with the first principle of Unity. That is about us all coming together as one. That's the main focus. We have the other principles in between, and then it ends with Faith. For me, that is telling us that it is important to have some form of faith, regardless of whatever is happening in our mirs, and whatever part of our mirs where we feel there may be struggles and unhappiness. We need to have faith. It's a powerful thing to think about. Kwanzaa starts with Unity, to bring us together, and then integrates that with Faith, the final day's principle. That's an enriching way to look at these principles.
Today's principle that we are going to focus on is "Nia," Purpose. Here's the stated meaning of "Nia" that was developed by Dr. Karenga, "To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to traditional greatness." Think about that phrase, "To make our collective vocation." It is about us learning how to find ways to build our communities, to build ourselves, to build our experiences. That's what we need to do. That's what it is. We can't only build our communities. We have to develop them too. We have to train ourselves, and continue to practice our training, in ways that will continue to make us who we really are. The beauty of this, it's something I really like about this principle, is that it is reminding us of our traditional greatness. I believe that we already have greatness. We were born with it. As A Course In Miracles students know, we are as God created us. He created us. I think we get lost from that idea. We forget about the greatness that we already have within ourselves. This is one of the wonderful things that I like about this principle. It's reminding us to go back, dig deep, and recognize the greatness that actually exists, not only in us as individuals, but as a collective.
I think here, at the Community Miracles Center, we are starting to do that. We continue to learn how to build our community, and we continue to develop ways, I believe, that will keep inspiring each of us. That is all about who we are at this moment. Kwanzaa is about us taking the time to look at our own history and to learn from it, to truly defend our community. When I say "defend," I'm not talking about a response to attack. I'm talking about taking the time and recognizing the beauty, the beauty of this world that we are in. It's not about looking at the negative. It's about looking at the beauty that really exists. It's embracing our own identity. Our identity is not only about us individually, it's about us collectively as well.
We are aware of the different struggles that we have in our mirs, in our communities, and this world that we are in. We all know about the tragedy that happened recently in Newtown, Connecticut, at the Sandy Hook elementary school – twenty children and six adults killed. As you know, that was a really sad moment when that happened. A Course In Miracles says this, "If sickness is separation, the will to heal and be healed is the first step toward recognizing what you truly want. Every attack is a step away from this, and every healing thought brings it closer." (OrEd.Tx.10.16) I'm sure that Newtown had their own community identity, a sense of who they were as a community, before the shooting happened. I'm sure, since the shooting, that sense of community identity has been severely shaken. They are at the point of wondering how to rebuild that. How will they develop that community again? How can they assure themselves that when they are sending their children to school, that their children are going to be safe? This is not just about what happened to them. The fear spread out to this world that we all are in. How are we going to bring our young children to school again? How are we going to take care of them?
How do we, not only as individuals but as communities, figure our how we are going to define ourselves? How we are going to accept ourselves in this world? That is what Kwanzaa is all about. It's about us looking and having more a conscious effort to develop our own identity. How are we going to see this shooting in Connecticut?
There was an African American woman named Mary McLeod Bethune. She was born in July of 1885. She passed away in May of 1955. She was an American educator and a civil rights leader. She is best known for starting a school for African American, at that time they were called "Negro," students in Daytona Beach, Florida. It started off very small with just six girls. It expanded, and they added boys. Eventually it became a university named, Bethune-Cookman University. She was part of what was called the "Black Cabinet," and was an advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt regarding Negroes. She wrote this concerning Negroes status as heirs and custodians of a great civilization, in her Dr. Bethune's Last Will & Testament (It's a literary document, not a legal Will.) "We, as Negroes, must recognize that we are the custodians as well as the heirs of a great civilization. We have given something to the world as a race and for this we are proud and fully conscious of our place in the total picture of mankind's development."
We must understand and accept the points of our own history, and our legacies. A Course In Miracles says, "Healing thus becomes a lesson in understanding, and the more you practice it, the better teacher and learner you become. If you have denied truth, what better witnesses to its reality could you have than those who have been healed by it? But be sure to count yourself among them, for in your willingness to join them is your healing accomplished. Every miracle which you accomplish speaks to you of the Fatherhood of God. Every healing thought which you accept, either from your brother or in your own mind, teaches you that you are God's Son. In every hurtful thought you hold, wherever you perceive it, lies the denial of God's Fatherhood and your Sonship." (OrEd.Tx.10.17)
Let's take a moment. Take a little journey and think about your ancestors. Think about not your parents, but your parents' parents, (moments of silence) and their parents. (more silence) Think about what they probably went through in their time period. Think about where they were. Were there struggles? Maybe there were not struggles. (more silence) Just imagine what that was for them. (more silence) Get a sense of your own history. What were their beliefs at that time? (more silence)
Think twenty years ago in your life. (moments of silence) Where were you? Where were you at? (more silence) What was going on for you? What was your identity at that moment? What were you thinking? (more silence) Now shift that to ten years ago. What was going on for you? What was happening? (more silence) Where were you at? (more silence) Now five years ago? (more silence) And now, be in your present life.
Although it is important for us to not stay stuck in the past, I do think that it is important for us to recognize the past and to be aware of it. I do believe that our past, our history, and our ancestors made us who we are right now. I think it is important for us to recognize that, not to be afraid of it, to embrace it, to love it. That's how we can build and develop who we are here in this world. We have the authority. We have the power to shift any perceptions that are in our minds. We can do that. We can choose to stay in a space of uncertainty or fear or judgement, or we can choose to get ourselves out of that. That's our purpose. That is what we can do for ourselves.
The principle of "Nia" also teachers, "Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it." (Frantz Fanon) A Course In Miracles adds this, "You will never rest until you know your function and fulfill it, for only in this can your will and your Father's be wholly joined. To have Him is to be like Him, and He has given Himself to you. You who have God must be as God, for His function became yours with His gift." (OrEd.Tx.10.21) Kwanzaa is another opportunity for us to look at the needs of our communities. Look at your community's hopes. Look at your community's aspirations. One of the great things about the Community Miracles Center is I think we are starting to recognize this. We are starting to fulfill our destiny, from where we are at. That is done in a variety of different ways. It's done with the conferences that we do every two years. The great thing is we're not just keeping these in San Francisco anymore – not even in California. We're expanding outside to other states. That's what our function is. That is part of it. Fulfilling our destiny is also about all the telephone conference call classes that we have, and the in-person classes that we have here as well. That's also how we are starting to fulfill our destiny. Yes, it can be scary to have that responsibility, to be aware that is what we are starting to do, but that is our path. That's the direction that we have to start moving – forward. We need to keep putting that message out. A Course In Miracles says this, "Invite this knowledge back into your minds, and let nothing that will obscure it enter." (OrEd.Tx.10.21) We must fulfill our own destiny.
We do that everywhere in our mirs, whether you are a musician, whether you are a teacher. We do it with our friends, and with our family. In every interaction that we have, we have the opportunity to express our message, our message that we always have inside. We need to demonstrate the greatness that we already have within ourselves, because if we feel it, odds are people around us will start feeling it as well. This is important for us to start looking at, challenging ourselves to start taking the steps needed, to be able to do this no matter how much we may be afraid to do it. I know I'm afraid sometimes, but I think it's important for us to take these steps as much as we possibly can.
Another great thing about "Nia" is that it focuses both on our personal and our social purposes here in this world. I like this statement, "... personal purpose that translates itself into a vocation and commitment which involves and benefits the community. ... For true greatness and growth never occur in isolation and at others' expense." (http://www.endarkenment.com/kwanzaa) That blew me away when I read it. Greatness does not occur in isolation, and the most important thing is that it doesn't occur at other's expense.
When I reflect upon it, this all reminds me of the recent Presidential election, the whole process that went on with that. For me, I had major issues with the election and the debates. I began to get worried, at times, that the person that I wanted to win, President Obama, might not win. I have to admit, I had some not so nice feelings and emotions towards the other side. I had some very strong reasons for those not nice feelings, and I even had some hate coming through my mind. But, as A Course In Miracles students. we are aware of how we can shift that thinking, to really see things in a different light. That was very helpful for me, to be able to keep aware of my ability to shift in mind.
The most important thing, for me, is regarding true greatness never being at the expense of others. I think one of the things that President Obama was able to do, was reach out collectively to everyone, not just one individual community, but all as one. That's what made the difference in the election. His reaching out was not at the expense of others. It was really paying attention to what others' needs were, and not our own egos. That was one of the beauties of the election for me. The other thing that I noticed from the other side was that a few of their candidates were putting down others – messing with women's issues. Those radical politicians didn't get voted in. It shows you where people's minds are, and that a majority of people understand the importance of, "No" we can not cause harm to other people. We may not always agree, and we're not supposed to always agree, but we are all supposed to treat each other with the respect and love we all actually deserve. That's the message that is important for us to start living.
Right now we are in a big fear of the "fiscal cliff." Are we going to go over it or not? However, instead of us being nervous about it, instead of us worrying, "Oh my God. What's going to happen?" how about if we just start sending out healing messages, collectively. That's what we need to do. We need to trust in the process that is already going on, that exists, because it is there. For some reason, we continue to go back to our ego, and to our fears, and buy into all the fearful messages. We get it all the time on the news. Everyone is afraid of what is going to happen.
Remember the whole idea that we thought the world was going to end on December 21? Do we really have to buy into that stuff? No we don't. These are just the fears that are put into our minds. We don't need to do that.
The important thing to remember, if we truly want to demonstrate the greatness that exists within ourselves, is that we have to dig deep within ourselves and bring it out. The most important thing is that it can not be at the expense of other people or other communities. That is not what greatness is really about. Greatness is about bringing everyone together as one. That's our duty, and what this world should be about. That's the beauty that we need to continue to aim for, to continue to move forward to. I know, for me, it does not feel good if I am causing harm to someone else. I'm sure a lot of you feel the same way. If we can figure out how to send this message to other people that we interact with, just imagine what this world could be like. Just think about that.
Here in our local San Francisco community, our own Rev. Marci, Rev. Peter, and Rev. Judy are now Community Miracles Center teachers. Think about the messages that you guys are giving to your students in your classes. Think of the healing messages that you are able to give out. Our pianist Sue does amazing music work. The music that she plays actually contributes to the healing in this community. Rev. Alicia works with her wonderful art. We all have greatness within ourselves. It's remarkable what we all actually have, together, in this community. It's important for us to recognize that. That's where the greatness comes from. That's what we need to start focusing our energies on, and not hurting other people.
The Odu of Ifa, a sacred Yoruba, African spiritual text states, "... surely humans have been chosen to bring good in the world." "Heri Za Kwanzaa!" That's my talk for today. (applause) ♥
Rev. Vincent Fuqua is CMC's Minister #51
Ordained October 2nd, 2004.
He is a member of the CMC Board of Directors.
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the January 2013 (Vol. 26 No. 11) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.