Kwanzaa’s seven principles, an activist’s guide

SN&R’s pot guru says the annual holiday’s core values can be applied to further advance the cannabis movement

Ujamaa is the fourth principle of Kwanzaa and Ngaio Bealum says apply it by thinking globally and smoking locally.

Ujamaa is the fourth principle of Kwanzaa and Ngaio Bealum says apply it by thinking globally and smoking locally.

Photo by serene lusano

Keep up-to-date with the latest in cannabis. Read Ngaio Bealum’s Ask 420 column on page TK.

Kwanzaa is the best winter holiday. Christmas is cool and Hanukkah is awesome, but Kwanzaa is my all-time favorite. Why? The Seven Principles, that’s why. Each day of Kwanzaa has a theme. The point is to discuss what these principles mean to you and your family, then do what you can to follow these principles all year. The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa are also a great guide for living an activist-type lifestyle. Take a look at how to apply these principles to your everyday life and keep fighting the good fight.

1 Umoja (Unity) To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race. Unity is important. We may have our differences (and I’m sure you know the cannabis movement is full of, um, let’s call them “strong-willed individuals”), but we have to remember that we are all on the same bus. There’s no need and no time for name-calling and bad-mouthing. Being united in common cause despite our differences is a very American ideal, and we should all strive to live up to our ideals.

2 Kujichagulia (Self-determination) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves. Seems simple enough. Be yourself. Live your truth. Smoke your weed. Just about everyone I know in the cannabis industry is really good at self-determination (See “strong willed individuals” above.) Standing against injustice is hard work. You deserve a bong hit.

3 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. I know it sounds kinda co-dependent, but you can still help people and have healthy boundaries. The cannabis community is really good at this. We love a good benefit and helping sick people. Well done. Remember: The modern legalization movement was started during the AIDS crisis as a way to help people in need. Now that weed is legal, clubs should be doing even more to help people. Shout out to all the clubs doing food and clothing drives this holiday season.

4 Ujamaa (Cooperative economics) To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together. When I see all the cannabis dispensaries and edible-makers and dab extraction companies and graphic design squads and cannabis event companies and all that good stuff, I am filled with joy. All these cannacentric businesses (and the ancillary businesses such as the lawyers and CPAs and security companies) are evidence of Ujamaa in action. I would also like to add that we should not be spending our money in places that don’t support cannabis freedom. Do some research. Support those that support you. Think globally. Smoke locally.

5 Nia (Purpose) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. The cannabis community is fortunate to already have a purpose: We want to end the prohibition and demonization of the cannabis plant. Done and Done. Let’s get back to work.

6 Kuumba (Creativity) To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. Think of this one as “The Campfire Principle.” Are your decisions as an activist going to make it easier and better for the activists that follow in your wake? Do you have any long-term goals or just short-term ones? Also: More art. Please. Hell, cannabis has sparked creativity since before Louis Armstrong lit his first joint.

7 Imani (Faith) To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle. You can’t spend years and money and effort and sweat if you don’t have faith that your cause is right and just. It takes more than chutzpah to think you can win against the federal government. You have to have faith in your cause. I have always found cannabis activists to be unwavering in their convictions, at least in terms of the unshakeable belief in the healing properties of the cannabis plant.

Kwanzaa has come a long way from its ’60s roots as an alternative to the white man’s Christmas. Far from being a celebration just for black people, it has expanded to embrace all lifestyles and cultures willing to celebrate family and traditions. I would like to wish you all a Happy Holiday season and an especially Happy Kwanzaa.