Saturday, December 31, 2005

Celebrate Kwanzaa: Kuumba.

On this, the sixth day of Kwanzaa, we focus on kuumba (creativity) and "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 was always taught that we all have talents. Are you discovering, developing and using your talents? Here are some resources that may help you do so:

* Think creatively about the world's problems and how to solve them.

* Use your talents to serve your community, and we all benefit.

* Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

* Be the person you want to be.

As humans, we are all members of that first African Diaspora. And accordingly, the principles of Kwanzaa apply to us all. Manifest the Kwanzaa principles today, this week, and all year long.

“What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon be beautiful.” - Sappho

Friday, December 30, 2005

Celebrate Kwanzaa: Nia.

On this, the fifth day of Kwanzaa, we focus on nia (purpose) and "make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness."

A few years ago, I attended a festival at a local masjid with my Uncle Agin. As we walked around, enjoying the food, booths, lectures, and other activities, my uncle introduced me to several folks, one of whom asked me, "Karama, what is your purpose?" She was quite serious. And even though I had thought extensively about my career path, I knew immediately that she wasn't asking about those plans.

It bothered me that I didn't have an answer to her important question. So after I got home from the festival, I sat down to do some serious thinking, journaling, praying, and listening about what my purpose is; why God put me, in my particular uniqueness, on this planet. Over several weeks, I thought about my talents, listed my skills, considered my values, and realized that I am here:
"To promote an understanding of the inherent value and equality of all human beings, and serve my community with a focus on equal access to health care and education, particularly for communities and people of color in the southern US and throughout the world."

Today is a perfect day to begin to understand and define your purpose. As my friend Ayanna says, "We're here to do more than suck up air." What are you here to do? Are you doing it?

Think about how much better and more meaningful your life will be when you are doing exactly what you were made and meant to do. I am so happy that my Uncle's friend asked me that question, and even more pleased to now know the answer. As I understand more about my purpose and how to live it, I have become a happier, healthier person. It's a blessing I wish for all of us.

As humans, we are all members of that first African Diaspora. And accordingly, the principles of Kwanzaa apply to us all. Manifest the Kwanzaa principles today, this week, and all year long.

"Let the refining and improving of your own life keep you so busy that you have little time to criticize others." - H. Jackson Brown

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Celebrate Kwanzaa: Ujamaa.

On this, the fourth day of Kwanzaa, we focus on ujamaa (cooperative economics) and "build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and profit from them together."

So what can I do lists numerous ways we can promote economic progress and economic justice. Here are just a few suggestions:

* Pay off your debts and use the money you save to improve the economic situation of your family and your community.
* Buy local to support businesses in your community. They provide jobs, resources and products for you and your family.
* Barter for goods and services and save your cash for when you really need it.
* Fund microloans that will enable folks in the US and abroad improve their economic situation.

As humans, we are all members of that first African Diaspora. And accordingly, the principles of Kwanzaa apply to us all. Manifest the Kwanzaa principles today, this week, and all year long.

"I went in through the doors of the treasury of wisdom, and I drew for myself the waters of understanding. I went into the blaze of the sun’s flame and it lighted me with its splendor, and I made of it a shield for myself." - Makeda, Queen of Sheba

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Celebrate Kwanzaa: Ujima.

On this, the third day of Kwanzaa, we focus on ujima (collective work and responsibility) and "build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together."

So what can I do is filled with ways we can pull together to improve our communities, from volunteering to giving blood to investing locally and responsibly. Peruse the archives for more ideas, then try them out and let us know the results. Your community will thank you, and your work will make it a better place for you and others to live and thrive.

As humans, we are all members of that first African Diaspora. And accordingly, the principles of Kwanzaa apply to us all. Manifest the Kwanzaa principles today, this week, and all year long.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Celebrate Kwanzaa: Kujichagulia.

On this, the second day of Kwanzaa, we focus on kujichagulia (self-determination) and "define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves."

That's really what So what can I do is all about, determining what you want from and for yourself and your surroundings, and claiming the personal agency to make it happen. Here are some tools to help you do just that:

* Think about what you want to accomplish today, this month, in your lifetime and make it happen.

* Think about what justice means to you (and why). Then live your life accordingly.

* Think about what doing the right thing, means in your life, then live ethically.

As the sidebar says, "People are blessed with the ability to change their environments and situations to suit their liking. I started this blog so that we all can exercise that power" to make ourselves the people we want to be.

As humans, we are all members of that first African Diaspora. And accordingly, the principles of Kwanzaa apply to us all. Manifest the Kwanzaa principles today, this week, and all year long.

“We face neither East nor West ; we face Forward” - Kwame Nkrumah

Monday, December 26, 2005

Celebrate Kwanzaa: Umoja.

On this, the first day of Kwanzaa, we focus on umoja (unity) and "strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race."

Unity comes, in part, through mutual understanding and respect. Here are some learn about and gain respect for others:

* Practice tolerance of those who may be different from (or the same as) you in some way. You don't have to agree with someone or share their beliefs to respect them as a person.

* Learn about others through programs like Women for Women International (Thanks KCB!), People to People International, and study abroad and exchange programs.

* Read about folks in their own words through their books, magazines, newspapers, and blogs.

As humans, we are all members of that first African Diaspora. Accordingly, the principles of Kwanzaa apply to us all. Manifest the Kwanzaa principles today, this week, and all year long.

“On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?" Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?" And Vanity comes along and asks the question, "Is it popular?" But Conscience asks the question, "Is it right?" And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Keep hope alive.

One of the best sermons I ever heard was on hope. The minister (whose name, unfortunately, I cannot remember) spoke about how hope is critical for survival and for thriving. The climax of her sermon went something like:
"One can live without friendship, but one can't live without the hope of friendship. One can live without justice, but one can't live without the hope of justice. One can live without peace, but one can't live without the hope of peace. One can live without joy, but one can't live without the hope of joy."

It was such a moving and meaningful message, and, to me, it represents the true meaning of Christmas: hope for a better life, now and forever. I think of that Sunday sermon often, am reminded that we have both hope, and the means to achieve what we hope for.

May this day and each day bring you closer to being the best person you can be! Peace and blessings to you all.

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. - Václav Havel (b. 1936), Czech playwright, president.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Respect workers and their work.

The Transit Workers Union (Local 100) of New York City are "On strike for fair wages, hard-earned benefits, respect and dignity." I don't know all the details of the labor negotiations but I do know that all honest workers are worthy of respect and dignity.

As the world becomes effectively smaller, we become more interdependent. If for no other reason than that (self-interest), we should acknowledge all good work, whether it is manual or intellectual, done outside or indoors, done in an office, officle, or cubicle, makes you sweat or gives you a headache, pays well or pays poorly.

As an example, consider all the folks who were involved in the last meal you ate:

* Who planted and tended the grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts?
* Who harvested the grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts?
* Who developed the seeds that ensured a bountiful harvest?
* Who tended the livestock before slaughter?
* Who slaughtered the animals for meat?
* Who stocked the grocery store shelves?
* Who cleaned the grocery store floors?
* Who baggedyour groceries?
* Who inspected the food for quality and safety?
* Who managed the grocery store?
* Who drilled for the natural gas to cook the food?
* Who drilled for the oil to fuel the vehicle that got you to the store?
* Who drove the truck, or steered the ship to bring the food to your community?
* Who cooked the food?
* Who made sure you had clean dishes from which to eat?

Now consider the folks in your own work environment. Make sure to acknowledge their valuable contributions throughout the year. We all deserve dignity and respect, as workers and contributors, and as fellow human beings.

"Work is only part of a man’s life; play, family, church, individual and group contacts, educational opportunities, the intelligent exercise of citizenship, all play a part in a well-rounded life. Workers are men and women with potentialities for mental and spiritual development as well as for physical health. We are paying the price today of having too long sidestepped all that this means to the mental, moral, and spiritual health of our nation. " - Mary Barnett Gilson (1877–?), U.S. factory personnel manager, economist

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Know the SCORE.

I'm a big fan of small business and microenterprise. In the US, small businesses employ 52% of workers, and they are important for growing a growing economies, and for personal self-sufficiency around the world.

"SCORE "Counselors to America's Small Business" is the best source of free and confidential small business advice to help you build your business—from idea to start-up to success." Here are a few ways you can get involved:

* Volunteer and join SCORE's corps of "10,500 men and women, retired and working" who "donate their time and talent to assist America’s entrepreneurs."

* Receive free enewsletters to learn more about SCORE activities.

* Ask one of SCORES 1200 email counselors for free, fast and confidential business advice.

* Support SCORE, a non-profit organization.

* Find the SCORE office nearest you to register for workshops or offer your services. There are 389 chapters nationwide.

And don't forget to support the small businesses in your area. Also, by funding microloans, you can help others, here and abroad, start their own businesses. These businesses will help the proprietor, her family and her country.

"I am aware that success is more than a good idea. It is timing too." - Anita Roddick

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Recycle Christmas cards and more.

Ready for another reader-inspired post? Janice writes:
What I would like to know is how to recycle those Christmas cards after Christmas. It seems like such a waste to throw them out. I have two years worth of Christmas cards piling up on me.

Good question, Janice! Your concern is justified. In the UK alone, about 1 billion Christmas cards are thrown away every season. Imagine how many are trashed in the US and rest of the world! That make for a lot of waste. Here are a few ways to reduce, reuse and recycle during the holidays:

* Cards - Your community may allow you to recycle them with other paper waste. Check to be sure. If not, consider using them for crafts. (I particularly like the idea of using them for holiday postcards or gift tags.) St. Jude doesn't need anymore used cards, but you can buy recycled cards from them for next year.

* Trees - Your community may offer curbside or neighborhood recycling or use in wildlife habitats. If not, you may want to chip it and use it for mulch or compost. Next year, consider decorating a plantable or artificial tree.

* Gifts - No one wants to talk about regifting, but many of us do it. If you have items you would like to "regift", make sure you follow these regifting etiquette suggestions.

* Food - Leftover food from holiday or other functions can often be given to a food rescue agency. They'll use it to feed the hungry in your community. Remember to donate extra food (or money) to your local food bank.

* Reduce, reuse, and recycle the glass, plastic, paper, and aluminum that you use during the holidays and all year long.

Happy solstice, happy new year, and keep the great suggestions coming!

"Children learn more from what you are than what you teach." - W.E.B. DuBois

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Take action against genocide.

In the last two months I've written about seven actions you can take to help end the genocide and suffering in the Darfur region of Sudan. The methods I discussed call for individual action, but some folks may want the support of an established organization to help them make their voice heard and their actions felt. Here are a few organizations that will help you get started:

--> Africa Action "is engaged in advocacy and activism to stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, where the Sudanese government has been waging a campaign of destruction against targeted African communities since 2003." Visit Africa Action to find talking points and ten ways you can help stop the genocide.

--> Genocide Intervention Network "envisions a world in which the global community is willing and able to protect civilians from genocidal violence. Our current mission is to empower global citizens with the tools to advance initiatives that prevent and stop genocide." Visit their website to find action alerts, and information on lobbying and divestment.

--> Genocide Hits Home: Communities and Congress Talk Darfur is a project of the Genocide Intervention Network. "This winter, concerned Americans will meet their members of Congress and ask them to (1) urge the Bush Administation to introduce a resolution at the UN Security Council that strengthens and expands AMIS and (2) restore the $50 million that Congress cut in the fall so AMIS can deploy more personnel. We seek  volunteers willing to donate just a few hours per week this winter to lead this cause in your own communities." Register now to get help in talking to your representative.

--> Human Rights Watch lists several things you can do about the crisis in Sudan, including blogging for human rights.

Also, consider the resources available from the, Initiative for Inclusive Security, Institute for the Study of Genocide, and others.

Years from now, when someone asks you what you did to stop the deaths of 450,000 people and the suffering of 2.5 million others, what will you say?

Choose the methods that works best for you, and take action today.

"I must lose myself in action, lest I wither in despair." - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Monday, December 12, 2005

Stay fit.

I got a great suggestion from a reader the other day. Ted writes:
Exercise to stay fit. If you are fit, you can render better service to your friends, family and community. Sometimes you can combine exercise with fulfilling some daily necessity, like walking your children to school, or walking to work. Or you can make time in your weekly routine for exercise sessions. Try to discover an exercise that you enjoy and it will be fun to do on a regular basis.

Excellent idea, Ted. I agree! Here's are more ways to make healthy choices for your life:

* Make good choices.
* Walk with a purpose.
* Take the stairs.
* Quit smoking.
* Run with a purpose.

And don't forget to take care of your mental health and spiritual health. Also, when you are healthy, you are more likely to be able to contribute in these ways:

* Donate blood.
* Donate your organs.
* Donate marrow.
* Donate platelets.
* Donate umbilical cord blood.

So, take care of your health: mind, body and soul. There's no limit to the good work you can do!

"Being an activist is the rent we pay for being on the planet." - Alice Walker

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Designate a sober driver.

December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. During 2003, more than 17,000 people died in alcohol-related highway crashes in the US. Every 30 minutes someone in the US dies in an alcohol-related crash. Now think of all the folks who are injured because of drunk or drugged driving. You can help stop these needless and preventable deaths and injuries. Who knows, you may even save a life, perhaps your own or that of someone you love.

Here's how:

If you are a party-goer:

--> Never get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you’ve been drinking.
--> If you are drunk, high, tipsy, buzzed, drugged or otherwise impaired, call a taxi, use mass transit, or call a sober friend or family member to come get you.
--> Or, just stay where you are and sleep it off until you are sober.

If you are a party host:

--> Remind your guests to plan ahead to designate a sober driver.
--> Collect keys upon entry to your party and give them back only if the driver is sober.
--> Always offer alcohol-free beverages during the event.
--> Make sure all of your guests leave with a sober driver.

We all can contribute to awareness. Click the links to learn more, spread the word, and take action.

Remember, friends don’t let friends drive drunk. Do not hesitate to take the keys from a friend who is about to drive while buzzed, drunk, drugged, or high. Be safe out there, and have fun.

"It is easier to stay out than get out." - Mark Twain

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Send giving cards.

A few days ago I did post on gifts that give. Now I want to tell you about cards that give. For many people, sending and receiving Christmas and holiday cards are an important part of the season. If you're going to send cards anyway, why not choose cards that will promote social justice as well as deliver your greeting?

Thankfully, Just Give has compiled a list of social justice greeting cards that are available. Here are just a few of the options:

* UNICEF "is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized."

* Courage Center "has provided services and advocacy aimed at increasing opportunities for people with disabilities to lead healthy, independent, productive and empowered lives within their communities. Many of our artists have a disability and are nationally recognized."

* Special Olympics "changes lives by promoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities. Through year-round sports training and athletic competition and other related programming for more than 1.7 million children and adults with intellectual disabilities around the world, Special Olympics has created a model community that celebrates people’s diverse gifts."

* Children's Defense Fund "provides a strong, effective voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby, or speak for themselves. We pay particular attention to the needs of poor and minority children and those with disabilities."

For all-occasion greeting cards, try

* Charity Cards "10% of the sale of our cards benefit worthy causes that make a difference in people's lives. We take a socially responsible stance in providing your clients, and our customers, with artful cards that send a humanitarian message."

* Good Cause Greetings "10% of the proceeds from the sale of each card are donated to a well-respected charitable organization."

You can also choose stamps that send a message and support a cause. Don't forget to mail your cards early! Or if you prefer, send E-cards. Happy holidays!

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Give a giving gift.

I love the idea of donating to a nonprofit in someone else's name. It's a great way to support your favorite organizations and honor someone you care about at the same time. (A great idea for weddings!) But what if your friend, relative or colleague wants to support a different organization? Now you can let them choose by giving charity gift certificates. You provide the financial donation, but your friend decides where to donate it.

Here are two ways to purchase charity gift certificates:

* "Our eCards, Gift Cards and Gift Certificates are Charity Donations that add a charitable dimension to special occasions, holidays, presentations and ceremonies. A great gift idea to accompany awards and trophies, flowers, wine, gift baskets, business gifts and every standard gift item." Recipients choose from "over 75 charities."

* "Charity Gift Certificates enable you to purchase a gift certificate and allow your recipients to redeem it to support their favorite charity." Recipients choose from "more than 1,000,000 nonprofits across the nation."

These go well with a child's, colleague's, friend's or relative's gift (and make a great way to teach a child about giving). They can also stand alone, or be used in a wedding or other registry. Remember, the gift will be tax-deductible (for the purchaser). Also, if you run a non-profit, you may want to consult the organizations above to be added to their list.

During this season of giving, and throughout the year, choose the gift that will give again.

"One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar." - Helen Keller

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Read it online.

About a year ago, all at once, I got several offers to turn my unused frequent flyer miles into free magazine subscriptions. I redeemed my miles for magazines and started getting all sorts of new reading material. It was great except that it generated so much more paper waste! I was always running to the recycling bin! (I should have done what my mother does: donate them to a waiting room and ask them to recycle them.) Nowadays I donate my miles to charity and read more online. You can too! Here's how:

* Read newspapers online. Many newspapers make much of their material available on their websites. Often it's free, requiring only a free registration. This is a great way to keep up on news outside of your region. I read the Arkansas Times online, and often send my parents articles from the Atlanta Journal Consitution. Kwadjo reads the Christian Science Monitor online. I also sometimes check out the New York Times, the Washington Post , and non-US newspapers. It's helpful to have another perspective on events. Don't be limited by language; use Google to translate articles.

* Read magazines online. Many magazines make material available online. Check out the sites of your favorite magazines and journals. Also, consider subscribing to and reading those that publish only online.

* Read books online. Several organizations offer free online libraries which you can use to read books for free. In most cases, the books are in the public domain in the US, and so are older. This is a great way to check out some of the classics.

So browse the vast resources on the internet and read online. It's often free. Plus, you'll learn more, be entertained, and produce less waste.

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does." - William James

Monday, December 05, 2005

Petition the UN.

In October, I wrote a post giving six things you can do to help end the genocide in Sudan. Ready for one more?

Samuel Totten, professor at the University of Arkansas and co-chief editor of the journal Genocide Studies and Prevention, is gathering signatures for a petition urging international action against the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Click the comment link below for the full-text of the petition.

Actual signatures are best. So print the petition, sign it, circulate it amongst your friends and colleagues and send it to

Dr. Samuel Totten
University of Arkansas, COEHP
205 Peabody Hall
Fayetteville, AR 72701

If you prefer, send your name, city and affiliation (if appropriate) to Then click the envelope below to forward this post to your friends and colleagues.

Remember, after all this time, women, children and men are still being killed in Darfur. (Five hundred people each day.) People are still being raped. (Women and girls are very vulnerable.) People are still displaced. (Over 2.5 million people, so far.) Won't you add your voice to those calling for an end to the genocide?

"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little." -Edmund Burke, statesman and writer (1729-1797)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Stop AIDS.

Today is World AIDS Day, a time to "celebrate progress made in the battle against the epidemic and bring into focus remaining challenges." You can get involved with the numerous events that are taking place around the world, or choose one of these ways to help stop AIDS:

* Call the CDC National STD Hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636) in English or español or TTY: 1-888-232-6348. Health communication specialists are available 24 hours per day and "offer anonymous, confidential HIV/AIDS information to the American public. They also provide referrals to appropriate services, including clinics, hospitals, local hotlines, counseling and testing sites, legal services, health departments, support groups, educational organizations, and service agencies throughout the United States."

* Use your computer to help "assist fundamental research to discover new drugs, using our growing knowledge of the structural biology of AIDS." No scientific expertise needed. Through distributed computing, your idle hard drive does all the work.

* Get tested so that you will know your HIV status and can protect yourself, you sexual partners and those you love. Act responsibly. Get help if you have trouble doing so.

* Participate in research. A good friend of mine is involved in an HIV vaccine trial. Like her, you may be able to help scientists and physicians develop new treatments, drugs or vaccines that fight HIV and AIDS. Also consider the HIV Vaccine Trials Network and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. Remember, you can support research by donating time, money or resources, in addition to being a study participant.

* Donate time, money, or resources to an HIV/AIDS organization. I like SisterLove and Nyaka AIDS Orphans School. Or search in español, português, français or English to find a worthy organization near you.

We can stop this disease. We have to.

"We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them." - Titus Livius