Celebrating Meaningful Connections  – ep.126

Being On Purpose  – ep.125
February 8, 2024
Kappa Alpha Psi – ep.127
February 22, 2024

As we continue to celebrate Valentine’s Day and Black History Month, I wanted to take the time to spread the love through the lens of Kwanzaa as we embrace meaningful connections and Pan-African culture.

Melyssa Barrett:  Welcome to the Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melissa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around equity, diversity, and inclusion. Each week I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in the space. Let’s get started.

Welcome to a special Valentine’s Day episode of our podcast. First, I just want to spread a little gratitude to you for listening. Whether you are a first time listener or whether you’ve listened to other podcast episodes, I appreciate you spending a little time with the Jolly podcast today. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to celebrate love, and most of you know that I enjoy connecting Kwanza principles to different perspectives. Today I want to explore how the principles of Kza can inspire meaningful connections and expressions of love within the African and African-American communities amongst others. Of course, I’m your host Melissa Barrett, and today we are going to embark on a journey to discover the beauty of love through the lens of Kwanza. Maybe one day I’ll even be able to add some music into the podcast to inspire you a little bit more, but today I’m just going to keep it real.

Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love in all of its forms, whether it be romantic love to the love we share with family and friends. Even the one true God, there seems to be a stigma associated with love oftentimes in the black community. This is why I love that there’s so much attention and intention to help people see what love looks like in different cultures. One of the reasons I like to talk about Kwanza all year round is because I think the principles provide such an opportunity for us to lift others up while we climb. So what if we could infuse our celebrations with the timeless wisdom of continental Africa Ds, foreign influence and African-American cua, honoring our heritage and cultural identity as we express our love for one another? So today I thought I would provide a little Kwanza flavor for Valentine’s Day.

If you’ve listened to other episodes that my husband passed away almost eight years ago now, he was a big fan of Valentine’s Day, and in fact, it was his one bold act of sending me flowers, and it was a huge amount of flowers he sent them anonymously that eventually we got together in the first place. Had he not done that, who knows what would’ve happened, but maybe that’s a story for another day. I had no intention of even going out with the guy, much less falling in love and marrying him, but sometimes God has other plans. So anyway, I digress. What I love is when we start talking about the principles, we can pull so much more out of them. They are endless. They can showcase a better life for us and our families through the practice of these and other principles, but they build on each other, right?

I was blessed to be able to see a screening of a new documentary called The Space Race, and then even meet Dr. Cyan Proctor this year, who is the first African-American commercial astronaut. She was both amazing and inspiring, and thanks to my friend Errol Pierre. Shout out to Errol, who wrote the book The Way Up. He Got me thinking about Bessie Coleman, the first African-American to get her pilot’s license and the trailblazers we have to thank for so much progress in our community. The documentary really captured the legacy of so many astronauts who have paved the way in creating opportunities for diversity in the space race. I thought the movie was phenomenal. In pulling together the story, Dr. Cyan did a q and A session afterwards, and she said, when people ask her why are we so interested in trying to solve problems in space, she responds by saying, if we can solve the problems in space, we can solve them here.

Each African-American astronaut is literally lifting each other as they climb, paving the way for others so that they can see themselves in a way that we have never seen ourselves before. I have now had the opportunity to meet three African-American astronauts. Who would’ve thought I had the opportunity to meet May Jemison, Leland Melvin, and now Dr. Proctor. What are some of the things that they all have in common? I’m sure there are many things, but to me they are all absolutely amazing individuals with different journeys and stories, but all showcasing what is possible, overcoming obstacles and blazing a path while leaving a legacy for others. So when we think of Umoja or Unity, it reminds us that love knows no boundaries. It transcends race, ethnicity, and nationality. As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, embrace unity by coming together as a community supporting one another and celebrating the diverse tapestry of love that enriches our lives.

And love isn’t just about coming together, it’s also about lifting each other up and empowering one another to reach our fullest potential. Think of these astronauts, but also think of those that paved the way for them. Like a Bessie Coleman. This is where the principle of Ji ChaLea or self-determination comes into play. Love yourself enough to pursue your dreams, to honor your values, and to carve out your own path, and in doing so, inspire others to do the same. It took the first African-American astronaut candidate in Ed Dwight to push the limitations. It’s so difficult to see how things come together as you look forward, but it becomes so evident when you’re able to look back. The exploration of love through the lens of Kwanza shows us the principle of ujima or collective work and responsibility. Love calls us to serve one another, to uplift those in need and to build a world where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

Together we can overcome any obstacle and create a future filled with love, justice, and equality. In the spirit of u JAMA or cooperative economics, let’s support one another’s dreams and aspirations. Let’s build businesses and communities that uplift and empower everyone regardless of background or circumstance. When we come together to pool our resources and talents, there is no limit to what we can achieve as we celebrate the beauty of Nia or purpose. Let’s remember that love gives our lives meaning and direction. Each of us has a unique purpose, a calling that beckons us to make a difference in the world. Let’s embrace our purpose with passion and dedication, knowing that our actions ripple outwards touching the lives of others in ways we may never fully comprehend brand. Let’s honor the principle of kumba or creativity by infusing our lives with beauty, innovation, imagination, love sparks Our creativity inspires us to create art, music, and literature that uplifts the soul and nourishes the spirit.

Let’s celebrate the richness of our cultural heritage and the diversity of human expression. Knowing that love shines brightest when expressed through the acts of creativity and kindness. And finally, the principle of Imani or Faith, which allows us to believe with all our heart and our parents, our teachers, our leaders, our people, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle For Black History Month, I celebrate these astronauts. I am thankful that the list is getting longer. Guyon Bluford, Ronald McNair, Frederick Gregory, Charles Baden, may Jemison, Bernard Harris, Jr. Winston Scott, Robert Kine, Michael Anderson, Stephanie Wilson, Joan Higginbotham, Alvin Drew, Leland, Melvin, Robert Satcher, Victor Glover, cyan Proctor, Jessica Watkins, Jason Robinson, Christopher Huey. Even Michael Strahan made it to space as the first African American space tourist.

As we conclude this Valentine’s Day celebration infused with the principles of Kwanza. Let’s carry the spirit of love with us in all that we do. Let’s embrace unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith in our daily lives, knowing that together we can create a world filled with love, joy, and abundance. I am so grateful to the people blazing a path. It sometimes takes a long time for progress. So for those of you that are sick, tired, and exhausted, stay steadfast in your work for your labor is not in vain. Thank you for joining us on this special Valentine’s Day episode. Let love, transcend boundaries, empower us to reach our fullest potential and inspire everyone in a world filled with joy and abundance. May your hearts be filled with love, and may you continue to share that love with the world around you. Happy Valentines.

Melyssa Barrett:  Thanks for joining me on the Jali Podcast. Please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.