Imani

The seventh and final principle of Kwanzaa is imani, which means faith. It can mean faith in others, but more than that, it means to have faith in yourself. I believe that you should have faith in yourself no matter what, and this year, I had to have a lot of it.

This year was my first year playing team sports since the second grade. Back then, I played soccer, and now I play volleyball. It can be really nerve-racking before a game because I’d always worry that something would go wrong, and I’d screw up.

In order to combat that, I had to have a lot of faith in myself. Faith that we’d win, faith that I would do my best, and faith in the team, especially. I even had to have faith in the refs, even though (and I mean this nicely) some of them don’t know what the heck they’re doing. But that’s a rant for later.

Anyway, this hasn’t happened yet, but I’m going to need to have faith in myself for the performing arts school audition. At the moment I do, but let’s just see how I feel five minutes before the assesment.  But I’ve still got time for that.

Everyone, I hope that you have a lovely 2017, and remember to always have faith in yourself and others.

 

Kuumba

The sixth principle of Kwanzaa is Kuumba (pronounced koo-oom-bah; it’s really fun to say), and it means creativity. That’s pretty self explanatory, so I won’t go into too much more detail. This year, I’ve been really creative!

I’m in board games club at school, and a few weeks into the school year, our teacher announced a board-game making competition. I knew that I wanted to be in it, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then, one of my classmates, Stephen, asked me if I’d help him with his board game, and I said yes, which turned out to be a great move.

He’d already come up with a super innovative premise for the game (it’s called Doopley Dap) and it goes a little something like this. (He wrote the original premise, I added my own special touch to it.)

In the year 3116, animal intelligence has reached an all-time high. 3116 was the year of the Great Animal Revolution. Not much is known about the war. The game takes place in the year 4124, where animals govern the world. The human population has decreased to around 105,000. The animals renamed the earth Doopley Dap. From 3524 to 4024, the sky kingdom, ruled by King Pugsly, was the biggest and most wealthy kingdom. In 4024, the people in the sky grew tired of being too far away from the other countries, and immigrated to other lands. King Pugsly became depressed from having no company, so he decided he’d throw a dinner party, inviting the presidents of England, Spain, Ireland, and France. The only catch is, once you’re invited, you can’t leave. Now it’s up to you to figure out how this dinner party ends: will the guests manage to escape? Or will the hosts manage to entrap the guests forever?” 

Sounds absolutely amazing, right?  It is, and it’s also super complex. There’s three of us in the group making the game: me, Stephen, and his friend Jace (Mortal Instruments fans, you see what I did there?) and each of us bring our own creative aspect to the game.

Jace had to come up with 100 silly things for the players to do, I made the video advertisement and typed the instructions, and Stephen designed the board. We’re so close to being finished, and when we are, the eighth grade teachers are going to play it. Here’s to more creativity in 2017.

*Note: although Stephen did the primary designs for the board, that’s not his arm in the picture. It’s Jace’s.

Nia

The fifth principle of Kwanzaa is nia. Nia means purpose, and specifically it means to look inside yourself and set personal goals. As a Capricorn, I’m very ambitious, and I like to set goals for myself, as you’ve likely noticed, with my checklists of things to do in certain years (I’ve got a lot I want to do while I’m fourteen!). I think that one of my purposes is to write, and here are three goals I’m going to set for myself to fulfill that purpose in 2017.

  1. Do well on my assessment for the performing arts school. (I’d be majoring in digital communication arts, which encompasses writing, photography, cinematography, etc.). If I don’t get in, that’s fine. But I want to do my best.
  2. Finish editing Three. Three is a story I started writing at the beginning of last school year, and I actually finished it last year, too. I’d like it to be the first in a trilogy called The Countdown, but there are still some rough patches (especially in the beginning of the novel) and plot holes I need to address, and I’d like to be done with those.
  3. Start journaling consistently. I do keep a journal, but I tend to only journal when something monumental happens, and even then, sometimes I just write about it here. Next year, I’d like to start doing it more often. I’ll start with three or four times a week, and then we’ll go from there.

Ujamaa

The fourth principle of Kwanzaa is ujamaa (pronounced oo-jah-mah). Ujamaa means cooperative economics, or supporting each other. Now, I don’t have much experience with cooperative economics, per se, but I do have some experience with supporting each other. Specifically, supporting my friends.

At school, I mainly hang out with my two best friends. We’ll call them Magnus and Isabelle (after two of my favorite characters from The Mortal Instruments). Since there’s only three of us in our group, we’re pretty close, and we’ll stand up for each other no matter what. Since we have a small, relatively drama-free school, there aren’t always many opportunities for that, and there haven’t been very many this year. There was the time where Isabelle mentioned that there were some guys in her class giving her trouble, and Magnus and I wanted to put a stop to it.

She wouldn’t let us, saying that she’d gotten her sister (who’s in high school) to do something, but even though she wouldn’t let us confront them for her, we were still there for her. We told her that if she ever changed her mind, we’d be ready to fight. (Sadly, she did not.) But even though she didn’t, we still supported her, because she’s our best friend, and we’d do anything to help us. That goes for any of my friends or family,

 

Ujima

Ujima, the third principle of Kwanzaa (pronounced u-jee-ma), means to work together, or collective work and responsibility. Being in middle school, I do a lot of group work and group projects, and I’ve currently been working on one since Halloween or so.

In my design class, I (along with six other girls in my class) am building a tiny house. Not a scale of a tiny house, like we did last year, but an actual tiny house, that has to be six feet tall and six feet tall. Ours is a PVC pipe yurt, and technically 72.5 inches, but our teacher’s letting us slide after seeing how worked up we got about it. It is only a half-inch, after all.

But in order for a project this big to work, each group member has to carry their weight. (Not that everyone is doing that, which is creating tension within our group.) So, at the beginning of the project, we made a role system so that we’d complete everything. Each of the six girls–we’ll call them Adele (that’s me!), Chanel, Emilie, Gabrielle, Holly, and Mai–has a job they have to complete in order to complete the yurt by the due date (January 26th). Four of the six girls are doing their jobs and more for the group. The other two…well, they’re working on it, I assume. The jobs are as follows:

Holly and Adele: Tarp/Frame (This refers to the construction of the frame and measurement and securing of the tarp. I also have the added responsibility of keeping up with our isometric drawings, since no one else is willing to take them.)

Gabrielle: Roof (She’s in charge of the roof designs and oversees the construction).

Mai: Floor (She’s in charge of the floor designs, if we do decide to build one. Jury’s still out on that one.)

Emilie and Chanel: Interior Design (They’re supposed to be building furniture. We’ve yet to see a piece of completed furniture, but that’s a rant for another time.)

Those are our main jobs, but we often make plans for the construction day based on what needs to get done and how we need to do it. Also, constructing the frame was a three-person job, so we enlisted Emilie to help with that. Even putting up the tarp and securing it requires at least four people. (There are three separate pieces to the tarp.)

This project is almost completed, but we wouldn’t have gotten it done if we didn’t have these specific roles, because if we didn’t, we’d all be stepping on each other’s toes trying to get things done. That still happens sometimes, but thanks to these roles and responsibilities, it doesn’t happen often, and it’s looking like we’ll finish the project ahead of deadline. Well, the outside and frame. Can’t say anything about the furniture.

Kujichagulia

Kujichagulia is the second principle of Kwanzaa, and it means self-determination. (It’s pronounced like koo-gee-cha-goo-lee-yah.) Specifically, it means defining your personal interests and making decisions that are in the best interest of your family and community.

This year is my final year of middle school, and that meant that I had to start looking at high schools in my district. A lot of people (basically teachers and other parents) offered their opinions, and I looked into each option given (although I will admit that I looked into some more than others). It eventually came down to three schools: the high school IB program (at the school I’m currently attending), a performing arts school (which is my top choice), and a school with a strong focus on biotechnology and allied sciences.

When I was looking at middle schools, I just looked at the schools that I wanted to go to. This year, I looked at not only the schools I wanted to go to, but schools that would be convenient for me to attend. For example, the science school is pretty much next to our house. It’s a short walk, and it’s a good school. However, although I have to admit science is much more interesting than I once thought (particularly genetics and coding) it’s still not my primary interest. Then there’s the IB program. It’s a good school, I’d be able to play for the same volleyball team, I’d already know the teachers, and I already go there, so I’m familiar with it. Then there’s the performing arts school. I’d get to major in writing, take four years of creative writing, and it places just as much emphasis on arts and performing as it does on education, and I think that’s really important.

Each of the schools are great in their own ways, and that meant that this year, it was time for me to make some big decisions. In seventh grade, I imagined that the performing arts school would be the top choice and the IB program would be the second, since my family hadn’t yet moved near the sciences school. When eighth grade started, I imagined that the science school would be my first choice, followed by the performing arts school, followed by the IB program. By November, shortly before the choice application window opened, I imagined that the performing arts school would be first, followed by the science school, followed by the IB program. If my beginning of the year decision had been my final lineup of choices, that would’ve been a choice made in the best interests of my family. All in all, though, this journey of choosing and applying to high schools (and it’s been a long journey, and I’ve changed my mind a lot) based on my interests is me further defining my personal interests. Volleyball and science even factored into my decisions: two interests I hadn’t even known that I had last year. This year was definitely the year of my defining my personal interests. Or, as Kylie Jenner would say, this was the year of me “realizing stuff” about myself.

Umoja

Hey guys, you might be aware that today is the first day of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga, just fifty years ago. It lasts seven days, and each day centers on a certain principle.  (Today’s principle is umoja, or unity.) It was founded for African-Americans to celebrate their shared cultural heritage and traditions. (If you want to learn more about the basics of Kwanzaa, look here. ) Now, my family doesn’t celebrate Kwanzaa, but at an event earlier this month, I had the opportunity to learn about the holiday, and I really love the principles and what they stand for. So, this year, for each day of Kwanzaa, I will be writing about an experience I had during this year and how it ties in to a Kwanzaa principle.

Today’s principle is umoja. Umoja is the Swahili word for unity. (It’s pronounced oo-moh-jah.) Specifically, umoja means unity between family and the community, and emphasizes the importance of family togetherness.

This example is a small one, but it’s one of my favorites. Earlier this year, I had to watch the movie God’s Not Dead for my church’s youth group. I mentioned this to my mother, and she said that she would watch it with me rather than me watching it alone. We turned it into a family movie night, watching with my mom, brother, and dog, Kayla.

It was nice to have a night with just my family, without the distractions of technology. The movie was really heart-warming and it sparked a lot of conversation between us. (If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend it; it’s on Netflix.)

There was also another night when the three of us watched an episode of Empire together, despite only one of the three of us being caught up. That was nice too, even though the characters are irritating and are all doing stupid things. But that’s not the point.

It was nice to have a few family nights throughout the year, and hopefully there will be more in 2017.