Seeds We Plant, Legacies We Hand Down:  Kwanzaa Among Them

One of the things I’ve learned on my journey as a parent is to have faith in the seeds planted in my children, especially if they’ve been well sown and nurtured. I’ve learned too, that children plant seeds in us, but that is not the focus of this piece.

Some seeds grow and manifest in a short time.  For example, a child who frequently witnesses empathy from a caregiver towards him/her/them and/or others will show empathy.  It will not take years.

Other seeds take longer. Years can go by without evidence that what we planted in our children, what we held precious, actually rooted and grew.  We are left in doubt and feeling defeated, especially when the flower we want to blossom is contrary to what blooms in gardens paraded before us as the grandest blooms on Earth.  For a long time, I felt this way about my daughter, who in 4th grade began to press to straighten her hair.  I had been so determined, given my own childhood trauma around hair, that she experience beauty in her naturally tight-coiled hair.  I had learned to cornrow her prolific hair, sew or tie colorful beads in braids and create style after style.  But when I finally conceded, with middle school on the horizon, I felt like racism had run its tanks over my efforts and won.  It was not until the summer on the heels of her college graduation that she unveiled a ritual she and her girlfriend had crafted, a light Caesar hair cut.  I cried, seeing it. Flooded by feeling that my efforts and determination had not been in vain and by how bold beautiful she looked.

During the past few days of Kwanzaa I’ve had a similar heart full experience.

Young Drummers at Kwanzaa, Cary, N.C.


I witnessed a legacy that my children’s father and I passed on to them, being seeded in my five-year-old grandson.  The honoring legacy of Kwanzaa and its principles; a time of celebrating African and African-descended people, our culture and ancestors.

I witnessed his enthusiasm for the nightly, family ritual of Kwanzaa. Talking about the principal of the day, lighting the candle of that day plus the ones symbolizing the prior days’ principles, and concluding with our holding hands, raising them over our heads to the chant of “Harambee.” In Swahili, it means pulling together, and we say it seven times.  On the last one, we hold it as long as we can.

I witnessed my grandson say “Kujichagulia,” unencumbered by the idea that it is too much, too different or difficult to say.  The same with its meaning, “self-determination.”  I listened to his example of  “deciding to do or say something that he thought would be good for him or someone else,” the way I defined it for him.

“When I decided to go see Lucy, because she fell and I wanted to see if she was alright”  (She had fallen while climbing at his birthday party and broken her arm. He insisted to his mother that he go see her a couple days later).

I witnessed him go on stage with other children under twelve, when called up by the African-American Dance Ensemble and dance to the African drums beating in fierce, got to move rhythm.

I witnessed a loving legacy passing down. Kwanzaa, an offering of time to reflect on the legacy we have inherited from our ancestors and on the quality of the one we are handing down.



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