As Black people, we are known for our creativity and innovation. Kuumba is the principle of creativity that grows out of this recognition; it compels us to leave our communities more beautiful than when we inherited it. Black people can be masterful singers, painters, storytellers, and much, much more. This versatility, at the heart of jazz, kaiso, reggae, zouk, samba etc, have kept us spiritually dynamic in the face of overwhelming, oppressive negativity.
As much as 2020 has amplified the negativity, we have remained creative in the ways we came together as a community. Weddings were broadcasted online for all to see and to celebrate. Online participants sang and danced in their own homes rather than the dance floor; but still, in perfect harmony with each other (ok...not so perfect). When masks became mandatory, people made beautiful African designs at home. We created online concert series, like VERZUZ, where we watched performances by the best of the best. We organized protests, marches, and vigils in a socially distant manner. Whatever was thrown at us, we found creative ways to overcome and to laugh at our tribulations. Its the creative ability to find humour in the absurd excesses of systemic anti-Black racism which keeps so many of us sane and future focused.
As we enter 2021, it is important that we extend this spirit of creativity to our collective COVID response. We need to find ways to digest all the misinformation and disinformation about vaccines that’s coming our way, ground it in our deep scientific traditions (yes, we do have many) and spit out the facts that lie within. We can take vaccines and still be fully holistic in our health practices. There is nothing to prevent us from reaching out for locally made, Black owned masks and distributing them widely as gifts. Instead of hanging out with other households, we can have game nights in your own homes. There are websites and apps that allow is to play games with friends in other households in lieu of seeing them physically.
Let’s keep on developing new and creative ways to communicate, play, and keep safe during COVID 19. Let’s creatively draw on, and reframe, our storytelling traditions; the most ancient and widespread heritage accessible to all Africans.
Remember, Africans were left with useless oil drums and they turned other people’s garbage into sweet pan music....such challenges continue as does the persevering spirit of Kuumba.