Buy Black for Kwanzaa

Alkebu-lan Images owner/proprietor Yusef Harris (at left) shares a package of Kwanzaa cards with his son, Jordan Harris (at Right). Photo by Cass Teague

Alkebu-lan Images owner/proprietor Yusef Harris (at left) shares a package of Kwanzaa cards with his son, Jordan Harris (at Right). Photo by Cass Teague

Kwanzaa is an annual celebration of community and culture created in the 1960’s by Maulana Karenga. The holiday lasts from December 26 through January 1, with each day offering a special opportunity for reflection and rededication.

Originally conceived as a means for African Americans to identify with African culture and reaffirm familial and extended family values, the holiday has since expanded over the almost fifty years since its beginning. But at its core the holiday is about celebrating blackness, and the best way to do that is to buy Kwanzaa gifts and paraphernalia from black-owned businesses.

One such business is Alkebu-Lan Images, located near the Tennessee State University main campus on the corner of 28th and Jefferson Streets, or alternatively opposite the junction of Ed Temple Boulevard and John Merritt Boulevard. Yusef Harris opened the bookstore in 1986, and has continually offered items of interest for and about Africans and African Americans ever since in a variety of means.

The bookstore at 2721 Jefferson Street in Nashville features books, clothing, oils, dvds, jewelry and accessories, wall art, shea butter products, educational products, along with food items and other seasonal treats. Yusef also travels frequently to conferences, conventions, festivals, educational and cultural institutions and events as a vendor and occasionally as a speaker about Kwanzaa and other Africentric topics. The website, www.alkebulanimages.com is available 24/7 for customer convenience. The store hours and phone number are (615) 321-4111 Hours: 8am-6:30pm CST M-F; 8am-6pm CST Sat-Sun.

Roosevelt T. Faulkner inspects a “Black Lives Matter” hoodie with Jordan Harris, son of Alkebu-lan Images owner/proprietor Yusef Harris. Photo by Cass Teague

Roosevelt T. Faulkner inspects a “Black Lives Matter” hoodie with Jordan Harris, son of Alkebu-lan Images owner/proprietor Yusef Harris. Photo by Cass Teague

The official theme for Kwanzaa 2014 is “Practicing the Culture of Kwanzaa: Living The Seven Principles”

Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba—the seven principles of African Heritage), which Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy,” consisting of what Karenga called “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.” These seven principles comprise *Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, as follows:

Dec. 26 Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

Dec. 27 Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

Dec. 28 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.

Dec. 29 Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Dec. 30 Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Dec. 31 Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Jan. 1 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.

Kwanzaa symbols include a decorative mat (Mkeka) on which other symbols are placed, corn (Muhindi) and other crops, a candle holder kinara with seven candles (Mishumaa Saba), a communal cup for pouring libation (Kikombe cha Umoja), gifts (Zawadi), a poster of the seven principles, and a black, red, and green flag. The symbols were designed to convey the seven principles.