YES Prep Public Schools

From left to right: Madison Williams (6th-grade student), Amanda Jolivet (Director of College Counseling) and Jerry Ellison (Art Teacher) 

“Kwanzaa is a time of celebration for people of the African diaspora worldwide. It is about experiencing that deep sense of connectedness to the mother country that many of us across the globe have never gotten an opportunity to know.” - Amanda Jolivet 

Habari Gani (What Is The News!) 

Kwanzaa is here! And YES Prep is here to share and reflect with all our staff, students and families who celebrate the tradition every year.  

Kwanzaa is about celebrating and remembering African culture and carrying on those traditions through ourselves and our community. So this year, we asked a few folks from our YES Prep East End campus if they can share what Kwanzaa means to them and how they live out each of Kwanzaa’s seven principles. 

So, without further adieu, let’s dive into the meaning of each day of Kwanzaa and how Amanda, Madison and Jerry follow the Kwanzaa doctrines.   

 

The 7 Days of Kwanzaa and What They Represent 

 

DAY 1: December 26

Umoja (Unity) 

To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.  

By making sure I spend time with my family. Family is important and the year we all have had makes this truer than ever before.  

- Madison Williams, Student at East End 

Every day, I connect with my family, both family that has chosen me through birth and family I have chosen through conscious commitment. I start my morning off with family time, and I end my day with it as well. I have so many group chats and group texts and group calls to ensure that my family (born into or chosen) is always together. 

- Amanda Jolivet, Director of College Counseling 

 

DAY 2: December 27

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) 

To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves. 

Honoring those who led to my existence is what keeps me going every day.

I hold myself to high expectations. I think about the struggles of my ancestors (known and unknown) who came before me. Knowing the sacrifices they made and the struggles they faced compels me to be a better version of myself each day. Honoring those who led to my existence is what keeps me going every day. 

- Amanda 

 

DAY 3: December 28

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) 

To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together. 

I want to make sure our community stays beautiful for the people that live in it.

In my home, everyone has a responsibility. We share in the chores, we share in the love, and we share in the celebrations. Everyone has a part to play, and we extend this same idea to our community. We engage in community clean-ups. We volunteer. We donate. It is important for us to remember the African proverb, “I am because we are.” 

- Amanda  

I help our community by picking up the trash around me. I want to make sure our community stays beautiful for the people that live in it. 

- Madison 

 

DAY 4: December 29

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)

To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together. 

While I don’t exclusively buy black, I do make it a conscious effort to commit to supporting black businesses and black communities as much as I can. 

The concept of cooperative economics has been ingrained within me since childhood. My father is a native Houstonian (he’s Third Ward proud). He went to segregated schools here in the city. He shared with me his experiences, and he taught me that the only way to uplift the black community and provide it with opportunities is to back it economically. Whenever I can, I patron black-owned businesses. The shirt I am wearing in my photo was created by JollyJohns Printing (a black-owned and woman-owned business). Most of my personal care items are purchased from black-owned businesses. The backpack I take to work every day was sold by a black own business that partners with artisan women in Ghana. I eat at black-owned restaurants. While I don’t exclusively buy black, I do make it a conscious effort to commit to supporting black businesses and black communities as much as I can. 

- Amanda 

 

DAY 5: December 30

Nia (Purpose) 

To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. 

- Jerry Ellison, Teacher 

I try to live out this principle by talking with other girls who look like me and giving them praise and encouragement. I try to help everyone that I see by building confidence in them, the same way I'd hope they would do for me.

- Madison 

 

DAY 6: December 31

Kuumba (Creativity) 

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. 

As often as I can, I think about the “what-ifs,” and I explore multiple possibilities and truths.

Growing up, I was intrigued by art. I wanted to paint...take photographs...dance. And I did all those things. As an adult, I realized that what I loved so much about the arts is the ability to see things from a new perspective.  

As often as I can, I think about the “what-ifs,” and I explore multiple possibilities and truths. I read books from people of cultures spanning the globe. I write from both my own perspective and the perspective of others. These experiences help me to take risks, to re-shape what I’ve been given, and find new ways to solve challenging problems every day. 

- Amanda 

 

DAY 7: January 1

Imani (Faith) 

To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle. 

I hold steadfast to the firm belief that the Universe will work all things out. Sometimes this looks like trying something new and unexpected. Other times it simply means remaining still. As long as I relinquish my need to control, and I allow the Creator to guide me, I know all things will end well. 

- Amanda 

I stand with anyone who is against injustices in the world today, especially with how Black and brown people are treated in the United States. I have participated in protests with the BLM movement in Houston and I know we will be victorious if we continue to strive for what is right. 

- Madison 

 

To all our families, we wish you a Joyous Kwanzaa. May you prosper and have a fruitful new year!