This is my reflection on Kuumba: Creativity
I have to admit, I never really remember reading the “official definition” of Kuumba.
“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.”
I always kind of remember thinking of arts and crafts, dances, etc. you know what we generally take creativity to be. But in this year’s ritual of writing and reflection I realized that it is about creating what we need. This week, I have the honor of participating in a marriage ceremony that melds two Muslim families of differing ethnic backgrounds: Indian american and African-American. In preparation for the wedding, the question of rituals and ceremonies came up. Given that the Bride comes from a large Hyderabadi family in India the number of rites and traditions that she brings are extensive. There is a beauty in having a history and culture that is uniquely identifiable and has been passed on for multiple generations. When I initially asked the groom, “what are you bringing [traditions, etc.] the wedding?” He responded with uncertainty.
All too often, still in this country, African-Americans when looking for our cultural roots and rituals we feel alienated from things that fall too far outside of our everyday life. As I mentioned before, one of the serious dilemmas of Kwanzaa celebrations, etc. is the stigma and fear of engaging a “foreign culture.” I have always taken Afrocentrism to be a middle-class Black phenomenon (that’s for a whole ‘nother entry) and truly understand why so many of us do not gravitate towards Africa as our cultural home. However, this does not preclude us from having a culture that offers a contribution to the world, and in this case a ceremony.
After a bit of discussion, and brow beating, the groom and I discussed the rite of “jumping the broom” as a marital tradition that harkens back to our ancestry as African-Americans. Additionally, it is something that is visually distinct enough to let all in attendance know that through marriage their new family would be connecting Indian and Black, and that each held equal value. While for many, this would have sufficed, the groom’s mother took an additional step and pushed to incorporate the recent Native American ancestry in their family. She will present the new marriage ritual with an explanation and have it close out the final ceremonies for both families. This is one of three wedding in the groom’s family this year and this ritual will be repeated at each wedding. Through the creation of this ritual, in company with the bride’s ritual, all in attendance get to not only witness a marriage but marry each other in a new cultural and spiritual space. This is the creation of community. By drawing on our Kuumba we have created what we need and made it available to all in attendance. Let us never forget, there is an equal beauty in creating a cultural ritual that is based in history and the present that will be passed on for multiple generations.