The majority of this post originally appeared here.
To celebrate Kwanzaa, HRC Foundation’s Religion and Faith Program asked esteemed faith leaders Rev. Elder Darlene Garner and Rev. Candy Holmes to share a gift of reflection and inspiration in honor of the holiday for the LGBTQ faith community and our allies.
Kwanzaa is about remembering, reaffirming and reinforcing the bonds that connect us as African Americans to all people of African descent. Our families and communities organize activities around the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles): Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith). Celebrating this holiday as a family strengthens our global community and reaffirms our common identity, purpose and direction as individuals and as part of a great people.
As African Americans, we navigate the legacy of American racism and contemporary white supremacy every day. We cannot make it through on our own. We are all connected and need one another to survive. Our survival and the survival of our community require that we remember who we really are – descendants of the creative, strong, courageous, resilient and proud people who endured the Middle Passage, the ravages of slavery and the lynching tree – with a shared purpose and commitment to uplifting ourselves and one another. Yet merely surviving is not enough. We were created to become those who thrive. Kwanzaa anchors us in that truth and reminds us that with faith in ourselves and in a larger vision of freedom we will find the strength to persevere.
We were both raised in the Black Church and it could be said that the Black Church (when at its best) has been rooted in the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa for almost 250 years. Like many other faith spaces, it is facing a major challenge – to remember its own history and to reclaim its prophetic role around justice for all. Today, the Black Church is being called to embrace, care for and nurture us, as well as to raise its justice voice on behalf of all people, including us. Imagine the difference it would make if the Black Church would allow Kwanzaa to inform their perspective around LGBTQ equality. Imagine what it could be like if the Black Church, LGBTQ people of African descent and LGBTQ people in general would embrace the Kwanzaa principles and for much longer than seven days of commemoration in December.
All year long, Kwanzaa calls us to unite within and across our differences and diverse communities, to co-create a very different lived experience and to determine for ourselves what equality looks like. By working collectively at the intersections of our lives and taking responsibility for one another’s well-being, we could achieve economic stability while also ensuring that everyone has what they need. We would be united in the purpose of achieving liberty and justice for all. To do this, we would surely need faith – a belief that the impossible can be possible.
Together we really can create a strong, safe and sane world for ourselves and for those who come after us. Kwanzaa offers a strong foundation for such a vision and calls us to live into that which has not been seen before. Let us trust in our capacity to act now as if the desired future is ours. As we imagine together, may it be so. Happy Kwanzaa!