Independence is a great thing!! Every country celebrates the day of its beginning. Every child eagerly awaits the day they turn 18 to finally be legally emancipated into adulthood. Now, to be grown has its heavy responsibilities, but it is also carriers the wonderful gift of Freedom. Freedom to breathe. Freedom of choice. Freedom to move. Freedom, Freedom, Freedom!!!
Well, imagine if freedom never came. What if your whole life was destined to only the darkness of servitude. For many children (and their descendants) of the diaspora this was a grave dark reality. With the Emancipation of 1863 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 many rights were restored and granted. However, the evidence of the indoctrination from centuries of capitivity is revealed in the lost of language, family names and culture. So, when the ability to be free came for our ancestors, many choices could not be made because they were lost in the annals of a history, forever.
Circa 1966 when Kwanzaa was invented and the Nguzo Saba gave us seven principles to help reconnect with our African heritage. On the second day being that of Kujichagulia: Self Determination. The ability to define and name ourselves. To create for ourselves and speak for ourselves. For any person, freedom and independence is as essential to the health of the mind as air is to the body and lungs.
On my Sankofa (Go back and Get It) pilgrimage to Ghana Africa. I was given a new name from Chief Nana Kow Amoasi III of my new village of the Efutu Mampon people. Kweku Akyirefi was the name given to me. And, it felt like a new birth, baptismal, and reawakening. My new name literally means, he who is born on a Wednesday and and he who hates dirt (injustice) and is a connector of people.
I wear this name with pride; in fact, with more pride than the name of my birth— because it was a choice for me to ask for it, accept it and wear it. As this second day of Kwanzaa is reflected on by many Americans of African descent, it is important that we all recognize the beauty of freedom. Whatever name we choose to wear. Whatever ways we choose to define ourselves. Whatever ways we choose to speak for ourselves- let us do it in a way to set a foundation for future generations; but, even more in a way to show respect for our elders and a veneration for our ancestors.
Habari Gani? Kujichagulia
The artist formerly known as Ramel Smith