2020 Kwanzaa Reflections

Updated: Jan 28

Last year I wrote 7 individual pieces on all the tenets of Kwanzaa to reflect on 2019 and look ahead towards 2020. As we all know, 2020 did not go according to plan so I wanted to look back on the tenets again (in one post instead of 7 this time) to see if I lived up to my own expectations, see how I’ve changed, and figure out what’s next. (I've also linked each post from last year in each corresponding entry.)

Umoja: Unity - To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

Last year I discussed many things regarding where I see myself after Texas, how I see myself as a Black man, and where that leads me in the future. For the most part, this one held up over the year as I wrote and shared a lot of good information regarding Black people and the plight of Black women as well as how we can do better by them as a whole. There can be no unity if we’re constantly treating Black women and non-men as “others” and I feel I’ve done my best to be consistent in my message with that. I have faltered at times but with the help of those same Black women, I have been educated, corrected, and helped consistently for which I am forever grateful.

On top of this, I realized that I have curated a great community around me who are willing to help each other out when times get rough. I was robbed of a good amount of my possessions this year by someone I trusted, and, in all honesty, it was a Black woman who robbed me. And yet, I knew better than to lash out and denigrate them as a whole because all of Black women didn’t do this to me. One did. And in turn, MANY Black women helped me to rebuild my life in the aftermath. From something as simple as a kind word or message to me, sitting with me to discuss what happened and checking on my mental state, to direct action such as money or items needed. Black women held me down and lifted me up this year as they have done in many years past. One will not ruin it for all and I am eternally grateful. Also, my mom is the MVP of 2020 for me. She deserves her own post for all that she has done for me. My love and admiration for Black women begins with her. She is the centerpiece of my community.

Additionally, I have made sure to let as many people as possible know what is going on with Black people and how we all can do right by us. With the protests, Black Lives Matter, many murders of Black bodies by law enforcement, and so on, this was no time to ease up on holding people accountable and making it known that none of the things that happened are new, we’ve just got cameras available. You’ll continue to see these things in the future and I’ll be doing my part to bring injustices to light.

Lastly, I spoke a lot last year about my plans to move back to Nashville permanently and soon. Well, this obviously didn’t happen and I’m not sure if it’s even a possibility or a necessity any longer. The west coast is looking good these days and while I love Nashville for all that it is, we’ll see if there’s another chapter there waiting for me in the future. Watch this space.

Kujichagulia: Self-Determination - To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

Last year I spoke a lot about how I created, or rather honed-in on, the persona of Brilliance Proper. While Buddy is my day-to-day, Brilliance Proper was born out of necessity, soul searching, and trial and error. In 2020 I ramped up writing for my site, but I fell short on two of my personal goals for more music and creating my first book. I, unfortunately, didn’t even start the book but that’s about to change. I did start working on some new music and at least three projects are currently in the works. My name works for all facets of my creative life and so I’ll be delving more into these as the year goes on and by the time 2022 hits, I’m hoping it’ll take up a good amount of my energy in a good way. I did enough to start establishing myself and my name that I better use my platforms wisely. Time to grow so I can show.

Ujima: Collective Work and Responsibility - To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and solve them together.

A good amount of this tenet bled into Umoja this last year, raising awareness through writing and sharing information. I connected with a couple of people in hopes of getting out on the streets for some face-to-face action but with the pandemic, my compromised health, and not relocating back to Nashville, many things were put on hold. What I can say is that I have been listening to my people regarding organizing and standing up for those that could use my help when needed. Again, it hasn’t always been easy and I’ll admit to not hitting the mark as much as I tried, but I’m continuing to learn and evolve with my messaging, intent, and actions. This year made it quite clear that we can’t ignore the plights of those like us if we’re to get ahead. Specifically, Black and Brown people need to do for us as no one else will do it for us. Prove me wrong.

Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics - To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

This one I did my best on as well this year. While I didn’t generate money for myself through my creative endeavors, I made sure to promote my friends and creators. I paid for two Black creators to help with my separate logos for Brilliance Proper (you’ll be seeing those soon) and made sure to promote those who were trying to get off the ground this year. It didn’t matter if it was writing, clothing, design, or fundraising, I was there to make sure that our voices were heard and creativity was seen. Pay. Black. Creatives. (And read my site.)

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

My purpose has always been to listen, educate, then point in the right direction. Sometimes I mix up the order but that sums it up for the most part. Last year I stated that I wanted to use my platforms to help others out and while I did a bit of that, I didn’t do it to the levels I expected. Specifically, I didn’t use this very site to promote much of anything but my own thoughts. That will change this year as I’ll be looking for reasons, people, and businesses to give space to. I don’t have much but the little I have, I’ll make it work. Part of it will involve actually building up what I have (Hey YouTube and Instagram) and using those as the proper tools that they are. I never think that I’m the most important or smartest person anywhere but I do at least think I can connect you to those people so I’ll work that angle in the coming years. I feel better in that position than just leading myself. Expect to see me defer to a lot of experts in the coming year.

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.

I previously discussed how I hold up the memory of my best friend Deandre for the world to know how he helped me live a more full life. Hell, to live life at all. I use my creativity to uplift him and the world around me with writing, music, videos, and whatever else I can muster. And while I will continue to create for him in perpetuity, I also need to focus more on my own endeavors. Through my writing, I hope to cover a lot of bases going forward. I’m planning to write a book that has different content than this site, I’m planning videos that are different from the book, music that’s different from them both, while simultaneously incorporating all parts of them into each other to give a fuller view of myself and how I see the world and want to help contribute to it. There’s no reason to lie dormant on so many ideas, sounds, and colors so why not spread them as far and wide as possible?

Also, I want to show the diversity of Black content. I think there’s been a shift in the last few years to where being different is expected. Nobody has to create struggle stories nonstop and the whole “Black people are not a monolith” saying has to show itself somehow. So let's do some different things and still be as Black as possible. I’m excited already.

Imani: Faith - To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

I hope so.

Those were the exact words I wrote last time because…I’m not always sure what to put my faith in. I’m not a religious or spiritual person by any means and so the only higher power I believe in is our collectivism. Which, I have to say, can be lacking at times. We all have a different idea as to what success looks like so we don’t all think ‘the top’ or ‘victory’ means the same things. Some of our parents are telling us to be docile as to not make waves and others are telling the youth to fight against identity politics. Some of our teachers are preaching the same old white supremacy while others are adamant about preserving our true history. Some of our leaders are content with being part of the establishment while others are trying to tear it all down. For some, victory is segregation, integration, or separation. Nothing has a clear path but we all know that we’re tired and trying to conquer what appears to be an insurmountable mountain.

What does this all mean? That I hope enough of the right decisions are made to finally get to victory. Whatever that means.

Thus concluding my Kwanzaa retrospective for 2020 going into 2021. We’ll see how much I stick to next year and do this again. Until next time, watch this space.