December 15, 2022

By Betti Halsell

Assistant Managing Editor

 

There is a period during the holiday season dedicated to African Americans; Kwanzaa—defined as “first” in Swahili— is known among all ethnicities. Highlighting African heritage, Kwanzaa carries the salt of a culture unearthed and conditioned, allowing new thoughts of deep reflection on the origins of the collective community.

Dr. Maulana Karenga— professor and chair of the department of Africana Studies at California State University—in Long Beach, California, crafted a moment for “cultural recovery and reconstruction,” when he designed Nguzo Saba; the seven principles of Kwanzaa. For a brief moment, people all over the world grow familiar with the name Kwanzaa and what it stands for.

Dr. Karenga brought Swahili words to the eyes of many, who may have never seen letters strung together in that form; words such as Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba, and Imani.

According to the official Kwanzaa website, the meaning behind the seven principles is the following:

• Umoja: to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

• Kujichagulia: to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

• Ujima: build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sisters' problems our problems and solve them together.

• Ujamaa: to build and maintain our stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

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

• Kuumba: to do always as much as we can, in the way we can, to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it

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

The Los Angeles Sentinel had an exclusive interview with Dr. Karenga; dissecting the tradition, significance, and evolution of this African American and Pan-African holiday.

“It speaks both to particular African people in the context of their country and also to all of us collectively as a world community of various African peoples, “Dr. Karenga began to explain the core values and practices of Kwanzaa, he continued, “Therefore, it has core practices, but they are also enriched by the particular ways each family and people engage these core practices.”

Dr. Karenga went into depth about the ritual of the holiday, “These core practices are ingathering of the people to reinforce the bonds between them; special thanks for the harvests of good from the earth and renewed commitment to care for, protect and preserve it; commemoration of the past and honoring the ancestors whose teachings and lives are our lessons; a recommitment to our highest values, especially the Nguzo Saba; and celebration of the good, the good of life, the struggle and the world and a future forged in freedom, anchored in justice and rooted in mutual respect and shared good of and in the world,” Dr. Karenga stated.

Kwanzaa was created in the wake of Haji Malcolm X and the Watts Revolt. Its birth represents the struggle to rise above conditioning thoughts of oppression. Dr. Karenga enlisted three reasons for the existence of Kwanzaa, one being a “practical and promising way to reaffirm our Africanness,” this holiday sets the tone to reflect on the cultural home base of the African American community.

The first Kwanzaa was celebrated in a house, among the first members who accepted the seven principles. Dr. Karenga described joyous energy with laughter, songs, motivation, and warmth. Kwanzaa, much like other nationally celebrated times, provides a moment of bliss and togetherness.

Dr. Karenga reflected on his gratitude for the people who walked next to him during the growth of Kwanzaa, singling out his family, organization, and the first members of the celebration.

According to the Annual Founders’ Kwanzaa Message published in the Los Angeles Sentinel on Dec. 23, 2021, the “Practice of Kwanzaa and the Seven Principles” focused on “Ensuring the Well-Being of the World.” It recited words celebrating the 55th anniversary of Kwanzaa.

The segment dissects Kawaida; the philosophy that fuels Kwanzaa and Nguzo Saba. In the practice of this holiday, Dr. Karenga expresses the call to “walk gently and humbly on earth.” According to the National Geographic website, the physical practice of Kwanzaa includes the following: From Dec. 26- Jan. 1, each of the seven principles is celebrated.

To prepare the tone of the holiday, one would decorate their table with a straw mat and place meaningful items that include assorted fruits and vegetables. This symbolizes collective labor and harvest, with ears of corn representing children. A candle holder that holds seven candles, is added to represent a shared African Heritage.

A black candle is placed in the center of the holder, adjacent to three red candles on the left and three green candles on the right. Families gather each night to light each candle to reflect one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The black candle is lit first to signify all people of African descent. After that the red and green candles are lit alternatively; red candles represent the blood of the ancestors and green symbolizes the earth, life, and the promises of the future. An elder is held accountable for leading the candle lighting and filling a “unity cup.”

The contents of the “unity cup” can be wine or juice, and some may be spilled on the earth in remembrance of the ancestors. The elder drinks from the cup and passes it around to the attendees, who join a chant—Harambee— which is Swahili for “let’s pull together” seven times.

The first day, Dec. 26, sets the tone with a meditation on unity (Umoja), subsequently the mind should travel to the other principles. In closing on the holiday, Dec.31, the Karamu begins; a banquet of music, food, and motivation. Often families give children small gifts on the last day of Kwanzaa.

During the holiday season, there is an important recognized; African Americans are seen through Kwanzaa. It's observed by people of various nationalities. Kwanzaa, which celebrates African ancestry, bears the salt of an excavated and conditioned culture, offering new thoughts of deep meditation on the beginnings of the collective society.

Category: News

December 08, 2022

By Dr. Valerie Wardlaw

 

You probably have heard of L.A. Rams defensive back David Long Jr.  Long, a football standout who grew up in Pasadena, became an outstanding player at the University of Michigan, was drafted by the Rams in 2019, and is a member of the 2022 Rams Super Bowl Championship team.  David Long Jr. is inspirational.  And in the words of Jay-Z, “By far, for me, the most important thing is inspiration.”

At the tender age of 25, Long has been to the N.F.L. mountaintop.  He recently made the sports highlight reels when he disrupted a deep pass thrown by Arizona Cardinals quarterback Colt McCoy during week 10 of this N.F.L. season.  When you mention these accolades to him, he is proud for sure, but more meaningful for this Rams player is his ability to give back to the community that nurtured him and to meet and encourage Black and Brown kids who may never get the opportunity to talk to an actual N.F.L. player. 

The L.A. Watts Times had the opportunity to speak with David Long, Jr., and here is that conversation.

L.A. Watts Times: Congratu­lations, David, on your success and the success of the Michigan Wolverines.

David Long Jr.: Yes!  I’m happy for those guys, Coach Harbaugh, the staff, and everybody that’s been a part of changing the culture and having success.  I’m extremely happy for the program and the fans.  I am a very proud alum.

LAWT:  For those of us who have never attended a game at “The Big House” (the affectionate name for Michigan Stadium), can you describe what it’s like to play in “The Big House”?

DLJ: Wow…I think it is an experience that is second to none.  Every week, I got to play in front of a hundred thousand fans.   The environment is lively, and there is so much culture and history at Michigan Stadium; from running down and touching the banner to the bricks surrounding the stadium, it’s a special place. 

I remember my first time playing there as a freshman against Hawaii.   It was the most nervous I have ever been in a game because of the drastic transition.   You go from playing in front of two hundred people to 100,000 people, so I learned to love it and never took it for granted.   Every time I left the stadium, I would gaze around and just take it all in and try to remember the feeling you get from playing in “The Big House.”

LAWT:  You were a member of the 2022 Rams Super Bowl Championship team.   That championship ring is fantastic!   Have you worn yours yet, and what did you think when you first saw the ring?

DLJ: No, I haven’t worn it.  After the ceremony, I stored it in a safe place, not at home.  Many people joked about it, coaches and players that have won before, and they said, “you will probably never wear it much outside of the ceremony,” but it’s a great ring and the first one I have won in my career.

I knew the design would be crazy because the team that designed it would make it as grand as possible.  The ring made it real for me that we had won.   Before that, it was surreal, but the ring is tangible evidence that everything happened, that we are Super Bowl Champs.

LAWT: What aspects of playing in the N.F.L. surprised you?

DLJ:  Yes and no.  I came in during a transitional phase for the N.F.L. – we are under a new C.B.A. (collective bargaining agreement), and I’m a part of an organization that is cutting-edge in terms of the culture and the people I am around.  My experience is pretty unique.  I’ve gotten older and become more of a veteran player, and I can say that I am very grateful to be a part of this fraternity and the league.  I’ve been blessed to start my career here in terms of development and learning.  I get to do all of this from the comfort of my backyard.  I’m at home and didn’t have to go anywhere cold.

LAWT:  Were you surprised that the Rams drafted you?

DLJ:  Absolutely, I did not think I would get to come home based on the needs of the organization, but I did!

LAWT: You have gotten to play with Odell Beckham, Von Miller, and Aaron Donald.  Can you describe that experience?

DLJ:  They are lively, energetic, caring, and genuine people who want the best for you.   They contributed to our success on and off the field.   We have always had N.F.L. superstars on the team.   When I first arrived, I played with Todd Gurley, Aqib Talib, Clay Matthews, and Jared Goff.   They were just genuine people, and I loved that about them.

LAWT: I admire your commitment to giving back to students and the community.   What advice do you give to high school and college players who want to play professional football?

DLJ:  I tell them that there is no substitute for work.   Always put in the time and work.   The results will come, and good things will eventually happen for you.   You never know what moment you’re preparing for, so just continue to put in the time and work.

LAWT: Before entering the N.F.L., what player did you admire?

DLJ:  Kevon Seymour from Pasadena. He was the only person I knew who played Division 1 football and played in college and the pros.   Kevon made the dream of playing in the N.F.L. a reality for me and not just a pipe dream. 

Kevon was always accessible, so I try to make myself accessible.  It wasn’t physical resources that he gave me, but it was hope that he gave me.  I looked at him and said, I know someone who has made it to the N.F.L., so I can do it too.   He gave me hope and inspiration.

It’s one thing to see players on the field, but you don’t know them.  I was from Pasadena, and I could call and text, look at him, and model myself after him.  Kevon never withheld any information from me.   He said he fell short in many places, and he allowed me to get the information so I could go above and beyond.  I’m always trying to do that with the generation coming behind me, holding the space for people, and sometimes that means giving them resources, and sometimes it means giving them hope.

LAWT:  Final question – can you talk about what your mom has meant to your football journey?

DLJ:  My mom has always been a person that helps people.  Within our family, she is the person who makes things right.   Sometimes it was at the expense of her own time and well-being, so that trickled down to me.  My mom always talked to me about having a good heart.   It’s not always about money moves or lucrative things for me.   It’s about using your resources for the well-being of others, and my mom taught me that.

For more information on David Long Jr., visit https://www.therams.com

 

2 PHOTOS:

 

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(Courtesy Photo)

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(Courtesy Photo)

 

 

Category: News

December 08, 2022

By Kimberly Shelby

Contributing Writer

 

“You must believe,” decorated financial advisor and serial multi-hyphenate Eszylfie Taylor stresses over the phone on a break from shooting his first film in Mexico. His statement is firm, emphatic, and decidedly empathetic. And he isn’t talking about Santa Claus. Although at this time of the year, when so many are gearing up to perform their own versions of the jolly old mythical character, purchasing gifts innumerable for their family, friends and colleagues, Taylor’s advice is particularly apt.

“Those that think they can do something and those who think they cannot do something are both usually right, so you have to manifest, say ‘this is what I want, this is who I will be, this is where I will go,’” he says. Taylor describes here the importance of self-belief, the first of two steps he says are necessary to position oneself on the path toward financial fitness—a coveted state of being all year round, but especially when the holiday season is upon us, and expenses so quickly ramp up.

Step two, he notes, of course, is actively doing the work. He knows something about that, having been recruited to New York Life Insurance Company out of college at age 22 and establishing himself, only three years later, as the number one broker in Los Angeles. Five years later, by age 30, he was in the top 50 in the entire country and number one in the African American market.

Some of Taylor’s signature advice? “Do the hard stuff first.” This maxim extends to any shoppers aiming to navigate the holidays with ease and sagacity. The difficulty seems to be rooted in the discipline required, the forward-thinking.

“If you had to put $10 in your piggy bank today, would that change your life? Would your life suffer?” Taylor poses the question. The answer for many is: likely not.

“If you did that every single day of the year, you’d have $8,000 at the holiday season to spend on gifts,” he continues. “It’s the little things that matter.”

This is a great tip for going forward to start 2023, but what of 2022, the season before us?

Taylor responds plainly: “You have to spend within your means. I’ve got three teenage girls. They’ll want me to [buy] things, and we’ll get into it, and I’ll tell my daughters you can’t be upset about the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do. In this life, you will never be given a chance; you have to take chances.”

Another of Taylor’s maxims echoes; it is magnified in context: Believe. Believing one can take those chances is critical.

Taylor believed, he worked. One could say he did “the hard stuff first.” Fruits have followed, chances have acquiesced. Today, while he services a wide range of often high-profile clients across the country, Taylor is also branching out into other industries. He currently stars in the new TV series "Mind. Body. Money.," in which he helps celebrities, sports legends, Fortune 500 companies and his own daughters navigate financial challenges. He has also developed an app of the same name that enables people throughout the world to benefit from the expertise he’s cultivated over 23 years in the world of finance. Additionally, as mentioned, he is acting in a film.

“I like helping people in any number of ways,” he explains. “My mantra at this point is mind-body-money, the total person, positivity mindset. So I’ve got motivational speaking, I’m a certified yoga instructor, and obviously, money—legacy, protection, planning, insurance, investments, the whole person.”

A key piece of Taylor’s offerings is teaching people how these things work. “When you understand and you know better, then you can do better,” he says matter-of-factly. The Pasadena native can relate to navigating unknowns, heady ups, and downs that aren’t part of yoga poses.

“It's not my success that I want to be known for; it's my resilience,” he notes. “I've made money, I've lost money. I've hired people, I’ve fired people. People quit. I’ve taken on clients, I’ve lost clients. All the things you can imagine, I've experienced. I just kept going, kept pushing.”

"Mind. Body. Money." premiered in October and airs Fridays at 7 pm EST (check local listings here).

For more money tips and motivation, download the Mind.Body.Money app or follow Taylor at @eszylfietaylor.

Category: News

December 08, 2022

By Bill Barrow and Jeff Amy

Associated Press

 

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a Georgia runoff election Tuesday, ensuring Democrats an outright majority in the Senate for the rest of President Joe Biden’s current term and capping an underwhelming midterm cycle for the GOP in the last major vote of the year.

With Warnock’s second runoff victory in as many years, Democrats will have a 51-49 Senate majority, gaining a seat from the current 50-50 split with John Fetterman’s victory in Pennsylvania. There will be divided government, however, with Republicans having narrowly flipped House control.

“After a hard-fought campaign — or, should I say, campaigns — it is my honor to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: The people have spoken,” Warnock, 53, told jubilant supporters who packed a downtown Atlanta hotel ballroom.

 

“I often say that a vote is a kind of prayer for the world we desire for ourselves and for our children,” declared Warnock, a Baptist pastor and his state’s first Black senator. “Georgia, you have been praying with your lips and your legs, your hands and your feet, your heads and your hearts. You have put in the hard work, and here we are standing together.”

In last month’s election, Warnock led Walker by 37,000 votesout of almost 4 million cast, but fell short of the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff. The senator appeared to be headed for a wider final margin in Tuesday’s runoff, with Walker, a football legend at the University of Georgia and in the NFL, unable to overcome a bevy of damaging allegations, including claims that he paid for two former girlfriends’ abortions despite supporting a national ban on the procedure.

“The numbers look like they’re not going to add up,” Walker, an ally and friend of former President Donald Trump, told supporters late Tuesday at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta. “There’s no excuses in life, and I’m not going to make any excuses now because we put up one heck of a fight.”

Democrats’ Georgia victory solidifies the state’s place as a Deep South battleground two years after Warnock and fellow Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff won 2021 runoffs that gave the party Senate control just months after Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate in 30 years to win Georgia.Voters returned Warnock to the Senate in the same cycle they reelected Republican Gov. Brian Kemp by a comfortable margin and chose an all-GOP slate of statewide constitutional officers.

Walker’s defeat bookends the GOP’s struggles this year to win with flawed candidates cast from Trump’s mold, a blow to the former president as he builds his third White House bid ahead of 2024.

Democrats’ new outright majority in the Senate means the party will no longer have to negotiate a power-sharing deal with Republicans and won’t have to rely on Vice President Kamala Harris to break as many tie votes.

National Democrats celebrated Tuesday, with Biden tweeting a photo of his congratulatory phone call to the senator. “Georgia voters stood up for our democracy, rejected Ultra MAGAism, and ... sent a good man back to the Senate,” Biden tweeted, referencing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

About 1.9 million runoff votes were cast in Georgia by mail and during early voting. A robust Election Day turnout added about 1.4 million more, slightly more than the Election Day totals in November and in 2020.

Total turnout still trailed the 2021 runoff turnout of about 4.5 million. Voting rights groups pointed to changes made by state lawmakers after the 2020 election that shortened the period for runoffs, from nine weeks to four, as a reason for the decline in early and mail voting.

Warnock emphasized his willingness to work across the aisle and his personal values, buoyed by his status as senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.

Walker benefited during the campaign from nearly unmatched name recognition from his football career, yet was dogged by questions about his fitness for office.

A multimillionaire businessman, Walker faced questions about his past, including his exaggerations of his business achievements, academic credentials and philanthropic activities.

In his personal life, Walker faced new attention on his ex-wife’s previous accounts of domestic violence, including details that he once held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her. He has never denied those specifics and wrote of his violent tendencies in a 2008 memoir that attributed the behavior to mental illness.

As a candidate, he sometimes mangled policy discussions, attributing the climate crisis to China’s “bad air” overtaking “good air” from the United States and arguing that diabetics could manage their health by “eating right,” a practice that isn’t enough for insulin-dependent diabetic patients.

On Tuesday, Atlanta voter Tom Callaway praised the Republican Party’s strength in Georgia and said he’d supported Kemp in the opening round of voting. But he said he cast his ballot for Warnock because he didn’t think “Herschel Walker has the credentials to be a senator.”

“I didn’t believe he had a statement of what he really believed in or had a campaign that made sense,” Callaway said.

Walker, meanwhile, sought to portray Warnock as a yes-man for Biden. He sometimes made the attack in especially personal terms, accusing Warnock of “being on his knees, begging” at the White House — a searing charge for a Black challenger to level against a Black senator about his relationship with a white president.

Warnock promoted his Senate accomplishments, touting a provision he sponsored to cap insulin costs for Medicare patients. He hailed deals on infrastructure and maternal health care forged with Republican senators, mentioning those GOP colleagues more than he did Biden or other Washington Democrats.

Warnock distanced himself from Biden, whose approval ratings have lagged as inflation remains high. After the general election, Biden promised to help Warnock in any way he could, even if it meant staying away from Georgia. Bypassing the president, Warnock decided instead to campaign with former President Barack Obama in the days before the runoff election.

Walker, meanwhile, avoided campaigning with Trump until the campaign’s final day, when the pair conducted a conference call Monday with supporters.

Walker joins failed Senate nominees Dr. Mehmet Oz of Pennsylvania, Blake Masters of Arizona, Adam Laxalt of Nevada and Don Bolduc of New Hampshire as Trump loyalists who ultimately lost races that Republicans once thought they would — or at least could — win.

Category: News

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