Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa Commemorative Stamp


Honoring the values of ancient African cultures

by Holly Hartman
The year 2014 will see the 48th annual Kwanzaa, the African American holiday celebrated from December 26 to January 1. It is estimated that some 18 million African Americans take part in Kwanzaa.
Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, nor is it meant to replace Christmas. It was created by Dr. Maulana "Ron" Karenga, a professor of Black Studies, in 1966. At this time of great social change for African Americans, Karenga sought to design a celebration that would honor the values of ancient African cultures and inspire African Americans who were working for progress.
Kwanzaa is based on the year-end harvest festivals that have taken place throughout Africa for thousands of years. The name comes from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," which means "first fruits of the harvest." Karenga chose a phrase from Swahili because the language is used by various peoples throughout Africa.

The Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba)

Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa honors a different principle. These principles are believed to have been key to building strong, productive families and communities in Africa. During Kwanzaa, celebrants greet each other with "Habari gani," or "What's the news?" The principles of Kwanzaa form the answers.

The Principles of Kwanzaa


umoja (oo-MOH-ja)
Meaning: unity
Action: building a community that holds together

kujichagulia (koo-jee-cha-goo-LEE-yah)
Meaning: self-determination
Action: speaking for yourself and making choices that benefit the community

ujima (oo-JEE-mah)
Meaning: collective work and responsibility
Action: helping others within the community

ujamaa (oo-JAH-ma)
Meaning: cooperative economics
Action: supporting businesses that care about the community

nia (nee-AH)
Meaning: a sense of purpose
Action: setting goals that benefit the community

kuumba (koo-OOM-bah)
Meaning: creativity
Action: making the community better and more beautiful

imani (ee-MAH-nee)
Meaning: faith
Action: believing that a better world can be created for communities now and in the future

Colorful Celebrations

Families gather for the great feast of karamu on December 31. Karamu may be held at a home, community center, or church. Celebrants enjoy traditional African dishes as well as those featuring ingredients Africans brought to the United States, such as sesame seeds (benne), peanuts (groundnuts), sweet potatoes, collard greens, and spicy sauces.

Especially at karamu, Kwanzaa is celebrated with red, black, and green. These three colors were important symbols in ancient Africa that gained new recognition through the efforts of Marcus Garvey's Black Nationalist movement. Green is for the fertile land of Africa; black is for the color of the people; and red is the for the blood that is shed in the struggle for freedom.

The Seven Symbols


Celebrants decorate with red, black, and green as well as African-style textiles and art. At the heart of Kwanzaa imagery, however, are the seven symbols.

The Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa


kikombe cha umoja
Meaning: the unity cup
Action: Celebrants drink from this cup in honor of their African ancestors. Before drinking, each person says "harambee," or "let's pull together."

Meaning: the candleholder, which holds seven candles
Action: It said to symbolize stalks of corn that branch off to form new stalks, much as the human family is created.

Meaning: fruits, nuts, and vegetables
Action: These remind celebrants of the harvest fruits that nourished the people of Africa.

mishumaa saba
Meaning: the seven candles that represent the seven principles
Action: A different candle is lit each day. Three candles on the left are green; three on the right are red; and in the middle is a black candle.

Meaning: mat
Action: The symbols of Kwanzaa are arranged on the mkeka, which may be made of straw or African cloth. It symbolizes the foundation upon which communities are built.

vibunzi (plural, muhindi)
Meaning: ear of corn
Action: Traditionally, one ear of corn is placed on the mkeka for each child present.

Meaning: gifts
Action: Traditionally, educational and cultural gifts are given to children on January 1, the last day of Kwanzaa.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Kevin Hart's Alleged greed leaked out by Sony

Published On December 13, 2014 | By Staff |

by Dr. Boyce Watkins
One of the most interesting things to have happened this month is the unexpected leak of very sensitive messages being shared among executives at Sony Studios.  One of their biggest money makers is comedian Kevin Hart, who has a multi-picture deal with the studio netting him millions and the studio even more.

A very revealing piece of information was released when one of the leaked emails consisted of a conversation  between Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal, studio exec Clint Culpepper, and Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton.  In the discussion, they are appalled that Hart’s team wants extra money to get him to tweet about the film they are going to release with him.
Their understanding, it seems, had been that Hart’s massive social media presence would come as part of the $3 million they’d already agreed to pay him for the film.   Apparently, that’s not the case.    Here’s what Mr. Culpepper had to say about Hart’s demand for more money:
It’s not as if we paid him 3M and 4M respectively for his last 2 films thinking he might be nominated. We paid for his ability to open a film which included his social media savvy. I feel like this is something that should be negotiated going into the film as opposed to after the fact. It feels tantamount to buying a car and then upon picking it up being told that the engine will cost extra. I’m tempted to suggest we call his bluff. If he doesn’t do his normal routine, his film will not open as well and his brand will appear diminished and he will- in fact – be f*cking himself because we have his next 2 immediate films. And then there’s the social media precedent we’re setting…especially in light of the fact that Channing is at the same agency.
Sent from my iPhone
Financial Juneteenth lessons from this story: 
On one hand, some might applaud Hart’s boldness in negotiation.  His social media presence is massive and valuable.  Additionally, Sony is going to earn far more than Hart on the film, and most of Kevin’s projects have been quite successful.
On the other hand, some might say that this could be considered bad faith negotiation, because if things don’t work out, the studio is likely to remember that you played hard ball earlier in the game.  Gaining a reputatation as someone who is difficult to work with can cost you in the long-term.   Given that studios are taking a huge risk when they put out a film, Hart’s team may have been able to negotiate something other than money in exchange for the tweets.
However, the onus lies on Sony executives, who probably should have added a precondition to the deal that Kevin give them so many sponsored tweets in order to promote the project (Culpepper mentions this, but doesn’t state whether or not this is part of the original contract – when I negotiated to be a part of a film, it was made clear that I would use my social media presence to promote the project).  The reason that Culpepper felt compelled to called Kevin’s bluff is because they are both on the same ship and if that ship sinks, Kevin’s career will sink with it.  So, it might behoove Kevin to do all he can to ensure that his films are successful – sometimes, we can be so determined to prove a point that we end up screwing ourselves as a result.
The concept of Moral Hazard in Finance speaks to the tone of this negotation.  Moral Hazard basically talks about what happens in a negotiation before and after you sign on the dotted line.  If Sony’s people had a concern about Hart tweeting the film to promote it, they should have realized that once Kevin signed the contract, an agreement would already be in place.  If that agreement doesn’t specifically include tweets, then Kevin could easily ask for more money in order to tweet the film.  To say that this was like “being told that the engine would cost extra” might mean that Culpepper was a victim of not considering the moral hazard of signing a contract that does not specifically designate what Kevin Hart is and is not supposed to do.
Social media platforms have tremendous value, and are literally worth millions of dollars.  Not only are they lucrative, but they are powerful in educating/influencing the masses.   Unfortunately, too many celebrities are trained to use their social media platforms to take narcissistic selfies or make money for themselves, while too few actually use these platforms to institute change, upliftment and education of their people.  This is unfortunate.
Dr  Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor and author of the book, “Black American Money.” To have Dr Watkins’ commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

Dr. Boyce Watkins: 5 Ways to keep people from borrowing all of your money

by Dr Boyce Watkins

If your life is anything like my own, you know that both success and failure each carry their own set of challenges and opportunities.   Being black only serves to compound these issues, because African Americans have an economic history that is littered with the symptoms of severe, long-term racial oppression.  We’ve had our money stolen and hidden from us, and had to work hundreds of years to get the same opportunities that white men have long been able to take for granted.  In other words, times have always been a little tough.
One of the struggles you may face has to do with being one of the few people in your family who is doing well economically.  Maybe you’re a first-generation college student.  Maybe you have loved ones who struggle.  Either way, you’re doing well and everybody knows it.  This can be a blessing, especially if you want to help others along the way (I strongly advocate for this).  But it can also be stressful to carry the financial load of lots of people who can’t give very much back.
Being in that unique place of economic success (or what might be perceived as such) means that you’re going to often be called upon as the Family Bank.   People will naturally see you as a possible solution to their financial woes, primarily because they could never imagine your problems being as great as their own.  So, I wanted to throw out a few suggestions on how to deal with the pressures that come with being the biggest financial target of many of your family and friends:
1) Pre-empt possible lending conversations by bringing up your own financial concerns.  In other words, don’t be Superman (or woman):  I’m not suggesting that you lie, but I’ve found that little statements like, “Man, I wish I had enough to pay for all the bills on my table,” lets the other person know that you have concerns just like they do.  This might make someone more hesitant to come to you with their money issues because they realize that you have your own.

2) Don’t brag about how much money you have.  Humility is one of the keys to avoiding unnecessary attention.  Balling, being flashy or showing off your money might make you feel good, but it also sends a very clear signal to any gold digging friend, relative or mate within a 100-mile radius.  If you flaunt it, be ready to share it, because if you’re stingy with the money, people may come to resent you.  There is tremendous value in being humble.  Most billionaires I’ve met don’t try to wear their money on their sleeves.
3) Prepare for any loan to be a gift.  Money is never more valuable than a close friendship or relationship with a relative.  I say that if you’re not prepared to give the money away, then don’t loan it.  If the person you loaned the money to decides not to pay you back, you may end up having to strong arm a loved one in order to get repayment.  The benefits of this move may not outweigh the cost, so try to keep yourself out of this situation altogether.  If you have to choose between money and an important relationship, then let go of the money and move on.
4) Help a little, but don’t enable.  Personally, I enjoy making investments in my loved ones, and I don’t always enjoy giving them long-term charity.  So, if you tell me you need $200, I offer you $50.   That way, I can show my support for your cause without carrying the entire load for you.  If you need me to give you the entire amount, I might offer you a temporary job.  Clearly, if you need the money that bad, you should be willing to work for it.  If you can’t, then that means the problem is not a big deal for you.  I’ll never work harder to solve your problem than you will yourself.
5) Find creative ways to say “no.”  My late grandmother Felicia, whom I give credit for being my first Finance professor (you can read about my awesome grandmother here), had a rule:  If she loaned you money and you paid it back on time, you could always come back for another loan.  But if you crossed her just one time, she’d never loan you money again. So, for the entire 77 years she was on this planet, I would hear her say to my cousins, “I loaned you $15 in 1982 and you never paid me back.  I told you the rules back then so now you’ll have to live with it.”  Usually, that shut the loan conversations down immediately.
Of course, saying “no” directly can squash any of these issues, and it might work most of the time.  The challenge is that there are some people who might take offense to being abruptly shut down by someone who claims to love them.  But if you can get away with saying “no” and establish a reputation for being a tightwad, that might make people more hesitant to asking you for money.  The strategy is up to you, but I can definitely say from experience that trying to save everyone will leave you in the poorhouse.
Dr Boyce Watkins is a Finance PhD and author of the book, “Financial Lovemaking 101: Merging Assets with Your Partner in Ways that Feel Good.”  To have Dr Watkins’ commentary delivered to your email, please click here. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Untitled-A Poem


When you come to the ending of things you thought great,

only to find they were no more than fake,

the misconceptions your parents taught true

in a country whose laws were not created for you.

From sea to sea in the pale moonlight,

your ancestors fought for their inalienable right,

of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness ,

so tell me what the hell has happened to this?

Was it all a facade to make us feel as one,

when in reality legislation holds us back with guns

of Jim Crow laws and voter ID registration requirements

and undocumented humans are created as though they inspired it

When will we as a people wake up and fight back

When our love for one another is under attack.

By Tina Gaston, Black Rights Activist