Habari Gani Good People! What's the news on this 2nd day of Kwanzaa? Kujichagalia, Self Deterination! Today's principal is one of my favorites as it has been a key component in my survival guide in my quest for empowerment, liberation, and the decolonization of my mind.
I've been in many spaces that has pushed me to follow patterns that did not suit me and were just plain unhealthy. I needed to garner the strength to 'define myself, name myself, and speak for myself' as the Nguzo Saba principle states and goes on to say, 'so that you are not defined by others'. This is a powerful liberator for anyone that wants to follow their dreams and especially for black folks who have been forced to conform to the ways of their oppressor. Kujichagalia helps us break free and decolonize our ways of thinking and living.
This principle of self determination also supports the creation of a lifestyle and future I envisioned for myself, family and, community. and to align with like minded people that hold similar values and visions for their life.
This past summer I was asked to be a part of a podcast called, 'Out of the Blocks, an immersive listening experience built from a mosaic of voices and soundscapes on the streets of Baltimore. ' This podcast has expanded from Baltimore to other African American neighborhoods and landed in West Oakland's Lower Bottoms neighborhood. Out Of The Blocks states, 'West Oakland’s Lower Bottoms neighborhood is home to the historical headquarters of the Black Panther Party. It’s also one train stop away from San Francisco, and escalating real-estate prices are quickly changing the character of the neighborhood. This episode, we meet locals who find themselves living at the intersection of heritage and gentrification.
My heritage is of the black farmer. My great grandparents owned 99 acres of land in central Texas. This property was passed on to my grandfather and it was the land where my mother was born. On this land my grandfather had fruit and nut trees, produce, livestock, a pond where they fished as well as a gravel pit whose contents helped pave the roads in McClendon county Texas. It was a thriving business until a power company, Texas Power and Light forced my grandparents to sell their land a livelihood for meager sum. So they packed up and moved to central California, San Luis Obispo where my grandpa's sister lived and owned a small restaurant. My grandfather continued to be a business owner and self determined man and soon opened a grocery store called Tiny Mart on the corner of High Street and Carmel. Below is a photo shot in 1970 of my grandfather Frank Bell inside Tiny Mart handing my sister a piece of candy. Next to the picture is what the building looks like today.
My grandfather owned Tiny Mart for close to two decades. My mother followed in her fathers footsteps as a gardener and entrepreneur who owner Neighborhood Wash & Dry in East Oakland. I continued the legacy of my self determined ancestors by being a property owner, business owner of B-Love's Guest House, and having a thriving garden in the sacred space I created for myself and loved ones. The principal of Kujichaglia is one of the core values I apply in my life and has helped me to live the life I have envisioned and defined for myself, family, and community.