Self Determination for Survival
December 9, 2014
It is with a brave heart that I attempt to begin to pull together all the inspiration that has brought me to the page once again in sharing what life has given me in lessons. Today I would like us to consider the matter of “Kujichagulia”. The word in Swahili refers to self-determination, a concept; I became most closely aware of through exposure to the celebration of Kwanzaa.
“Kujichagulia” means "To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves."
Deep in these words more than the activity or work that is required is the point that all this must be done for self by self. Why do we need to create define, name or speak for ourselves? The answer is quite obvious, if we don’t, someone else will. Then, the natural result is that we will be subject to the creation of that mind’s reality. In my humble opinion, the principle of self-determination applies to anyone who wishes to manifest his/her own life on his/her own terms.
Now that we have established this foundation for the reasoning, I will share how a few at first unrelated incidents in the last couple of months have had me taking a more serious look at the importance of this very principle.
First, there has been an innate fire growing inside me to, as I will quote from a song of Buju Banton 'rule my destiny'. I have observed in the rushed life of urban living, the need to retract from the programming we so daily engage in, focus more internally which often then leads me to desire to set my own life agenda undisturbed by external forces.
I have seen how easy it is to be swallowed whole by routines and expectations of everyone but yourself. Simply, my tolerance for this has grown thin and waning in the last couple of months.
The second is the re-reading of certain critical chapters of Groundings with My Brothers by Walter Rodney which through the glance of more searching 'eyes', I began to connect more deeply, with his “Statement of the Jamaican Situation” (chap. 1), seeing the true nature of this land in which I had been born and how it had indeed progressed negatively to now. So many parallels jumped out at me and it saddened me to know we were still not far removed from these very rootical issues and concerns.
The 3rd and final spur to me sharing my experience was participating in the Jamaica Music Conference weekend which was held last month here in Jamaica which exposed me to individuals who were independently trying determine their own paths, most times un-aided and fighting an uphill battle to survive according to their rules. The reasonings in that space helped bolster the fire burning for self-assessment and indeed change, a need to stand up and be counted as an individual and also as a community.
A part of this experience also involved a visit to Pinnacle and also exposure to the knowledge of a self-sufficient community here in Jamaica one of many I presume, which was the Source Farm Eco village in John’s Town St. Thomas.
All three things screamed to me self-reliance in the following ways: here was Walter Rodney describing the state of things, as they exist, prophecy fulfilling and pointing towards the solution, which is self-determination as a collective. So was also the declaration in the discussions and reasonings at the conference and a physical example was held up by those living this self-reliant determined life, which in and of itself provided proof that we can choose to live how we want to. We are gifted to create define and make the rules for our paths even when met with opposition.
It called forth a need to examine this life that we are living on the daily. Are we truly living as how we would like to or are we living in the construct of another’s idea of how our life should be?
As I broke down the meaning of these words more deeply, a more popular set of words sprung to mind “To thine own self be true” taken from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. If I am to be true to myself then I must embrace myself, all that I am and come from. I must also accept responsibility for my life. In other words I can stay in the passenger seat or jump into the driver’s seat.
And then came the light, self-determination not only needs to happen on an individual level but in a communal collective setting where we join together to create the communities we want to see exist. Inevitably this is for our survival. It is time indeed for me, for all of us as a people to “resume the handling of our, their own destinies” as Walter Rodney posits as he expounds on Black Power and its relevance to the West Indies. Regaining our power and independence is one sure way to chart the path to the life of our own design.
It will not be easy, it was not easy for our ancestors. Yet their vision inspires us still. On my visit to Pinnacle, I was struck by this very truth how far ahead our ancestors saw to do the things expedient in their time so that we have an example from which to pull our own inspiration. As I stood on the grounds of the highest point, I could feel a natural connection with the land and also what occurred to me more than anything, was here was a space that was created for the people by the people. In Leonard Howell’s vision he had created a safe space, a place where our people could live and be according to their own purpose if they so chose; an example of self-sufficiency and determination that was later seen as a threat to the established norms of his time.
I see that things still have not progressed as far as we would like because here I am trying to chart the same path for myself and not without opposition. I realize the preservation of this place means cementing the ideology and philosophy of a self-sustaining life that no one should be denied. Isn’t this what we all want in the end? Think about it. This isn’t just a Rasta ting. This community was built on the principle that we as people can make it work. We can organize. We can build. We can feed ourselves. In these treacherous times we need self-determination more than ever. This is what Pinnacle now means to me, what the Source Village in Johns Town St. Thomas means, what Kujichagulia means. I can make it work and more importantly we can make it work.
Won’t you join me? Let’s define and create for ourselves and speak for ourselves the very lives we really do desire. We are the change we have been waiting on all our lives. I leave you with this for contemplation.
Blissings and Love Always from this Sistren.
Who am I?