Kuumba and the boundless mind

The mind is endowed with infinite potential. In fact, the mind is the wellspring that has enriched human life since its inception on this planet. When we survey African history, we are continually astounded by the grand potentiality of the human mind, in particular its capacity to create ideas, objects, and conditions that optimize human life.

Today, African people find themselves living in a world shaped by the Maafa—the interrelated process of slavery, colonization, and its legacy. We reside in a world that has been shaped by tyranny and plunder, one wherein the deprivations, campaigns of destabilization, and alienation continue characterize our existence.

We are even taught that we are bereft of possibility, that we have arrived at the end of history, and that the established order—despite its inescapable problems—represents the best possible expression of human potentiality. All of these messages are not happenstance, but have been devised specifically to impoverish our imaginations and deaden our creativity.

However, for those of us who know our history, we know that these things are untrue. We know that our history provides a testament of African ingenuity, and that, as Marcus Garvey has said, “Whatsoever things common to man, that man has done, man can do.” Garvey reminds us that history, beyond being a chronicle of the past, is also a measure of human capacity. Our history is no different, for its reveals to us that we are capable of building vast cities, maintaining effective and just governance, developing ecologically-balanced food systems, preparing our youth to be the stewards of our future, devising profound and stirring art forms, and creating practices and principles that gives the people a powerful and expansive sense of identity, purpose, and direction. In effect, history teaches us what we have been and what we might become. It is the deep well of knowledge that fuels the imagination, and enlivens our creativity, a creativity that once awakened, is boundless in what it can achieve. This is the essence of Kuumba.


Each of us, no matter how small, how young, how old, and so forth possess unique talents, gifts, insights, and abilities that if directed towards the aim of our liberation provides a rich and valued contribution. This is part of Kuumba, acknowledging that we all have role to play in our struggle, and dedicating ourselves to this. Some of us will contribute as storytellers, musicians, and poets. Some of us will contribute as architects, scientists, and doctors. Others will contribute as lawyers, educators, scholars, and so forth. Ultimately, whatever the form of our contribution, we must all aim to leave our community better as a result of our efforts.

This is particularly significant if we look at the principle of Kuumba historically. When Marcus Garvey had assessed the paucity of African power and determined to change this by creating the Universal Negro Improvement Association, this was applied Kuumba. His example is notable because he sought to build all of the social systems needed to ensure the survival of African people. We would do well to study the legacy of Garvey and the many others who have applied their genius to solving the malaise of the African World Community.

Kuumba is the application of creative intelligence to the transformation of the African world.

Heri za Kwanzaa (Happy Kwanzaa)!