Living the Kwanzaa Principles Year-Round

 Kwanzaa kinara--Virgin Islands

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.

Black people have always leaned on their faith when faced with the horrific conditions of enslavement, Jim Crow, and the Red Summer of 1919.  The Red Summer took place when Black soldiers returned home from their tour of duty after World War I.   It was very ironic that Black soldiers fought and died for a country that denied them basic human rights. Many times they were subjected to segregated and inhumane conditions while serving in the United States military.

After their exposure to other cultures in the world and experiencing the horrors of war, Black soldiers returned home as different people. They wanted equal treatment under the law and the same rights as all other Americans.  Many Black soldiers were lynched. Sometimes these lynchings were even committed while they were still wearing their uniforms. Racist White people wanted to protect the idea of “white privilege”. Whites killed so many black soldiers upon their return home that it was called the “Red Summer”.

Our faith gave us courage and hope that things would get better over time. The Civil Rights Movement, as well as many of our schools and colleges were all birthed in the Black church. We are now standing on the faith of our ancestors who fought for us to have a better life. Because of that faith, President Barack Obama is the first African-American President of the United States. He now resides in the White House which our enslaved ancestors helped to build. Now that’s faith!

Kuumba (Creativity): To always do as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

I was asked by the Sunday School Superintendent of my church to develop and chair a Black history program for the students. Having always been involved with the arts, I was happy to be asked to create the program. I developed the program with two purposes in mind: 1. To share African American history through stories, poems and songs and 2. To help build the self-esteem of the children.

One of the parents shared with me that her son was mentally challenged and would not be able to participate on the program. Sharing. with the mother that I would work with each child individually, I told her I would not remove him from the program because I knew he could do it. She said that she would also work with him at home. As we prepared for the program, I treated him just like the rest of the children. Well the day arrived and all of the children’s presentations were wonderful. The children took to the stage to share their poems or songs. The concerned mother’s son recited his poem from memory. She was so proud and thanked me for keeping him in the program.

Over the years other parents have shared concerns about their children’s abilities. My philosophy is always the same. I don’t focus on what they can’t do. I know I will find some way to help the children to accomplish their goals. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to witness the children’s self-esteem spread wings and take flight. I have watched them soar like eagles into adulthood. Creativity is wonderful!

Kay L. Merrill

Kay L. Merrill


Kay L. Merrill is a member of the Griot’s Circle of Maryland, the National Association of Black Storytellers, the Arena Players , NAACP and the National Action Network  Ms. Merrill is a former member of the NABS Board of Directors, having recently served as the board’s secretary. She is also an actress, writer, activist and storyteller. The Official Griot for the Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP,  Kay L. Merrill was named as  Baltimore’s own Madame C. J. Walker and has been a regular guest storyteller on the  Larry Young  Radio Show and  the Anthony McCarthy Radio Show.