Second Day of Kwanzaa

On the second day of Kwanzaa, we have a mouthful of a principle: Kujichagulia, or self-determination. It may be a mouthful, but as with all the principles of Kwanzaa, there’s a deep truth within it.

“To be responsible for ourselves and create our own destiny” is a worthy goal for us all. Creating one’s own destiny requires that one has a sense of self, confidence in that self, and the courage to make bold choices.

Not to make choices is another road to follow, for sure. But down that road lie meandering trails, meaningless toil, and a life that never turned out just as you wished it would.

This is a green rectangular design by Jeffrey St. Clair, presented against a square green, yellow, and black background. St. Clair’s design includes a square symbolic image at the left, created from brown, green, and black shapes on a yellow background. The words around it say, “The seven principles: Kujichagulia: Self-determination. To be responsible for ourselves and create our own destiny.”
Image by, and courtesy of, Jeffrey St. Clair. See Credits below.

What is Self-Determination?

What does it look like IRL to see someone who is responsible for themself and who creates their own destiny? This can take lots of forms and manifest in as many ways as there are individuals. But being responsible for one’s self involves a couple of important skills.

It means we have to develop boundaries and the will to enforce them. And it means we must learn enough about ourself to understand our deepest values.

As Angelou notes in the quote below, controlling our “destiny” isn’t the same thing as controlling what happens to us. Our boundaries and our values — our character — guide how we react when the events of our lives unfold.

This square quote-image has a grayish background. On the right side is a photo of a young Maya Angelou in black and white. On the left It says, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
See credits below.

Self-Determination Ideally Brings out our Best Self

Many of the principles of Kwanzaa, starting with Unity on Day One and continuing with others to come, deal with building community. But as Leanne Betasamosake Simpson notes in the quote below, to build a strong community, we must start with strong, values-centered individuals.

Your self-determination defines what kind of “building materials” you are, and how you’ll fit into the community you build around yourself.

This square turquoise, yellow ocher, and cream colored design from Hopebound on Facebook says, “Strong communities are born out of individuals being their best selves. – Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. Hopebound.”
Courtesy of Hopebound on Facebook. See Credits below.

Self-Determination is a Journey

Creating our own destiny isn’t a “one-and-done” thing. It’s a lifetime effort, the cumulative result of endless, countless choices. Our best hope is that we learn more, strengthen our values as we go, and remain true to ourselves. Only then can our self-determination truly lead us to our best destiny.


Many thanks to Jeffrey St. Clair via LinkedIn’s SlideShare, for the nicely designed symbol image and “seven principles” slide. When I updated this post in 2023, I found some better quote images to illustrate it. I am grateful to Hopebound on Facebook for the nicely designed quote from Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.

The Maya Angelou quote’s origin is a bit of a puzzle. The earliest iteration of this image that I can still find active is somewhere in the depths of Zoe Saldana’s Instagram feed. That possibly won’t be the origin (if you look closely, you might see “S.H.O.Love” in the background, which was a clue I couldn’t develop), but that’s as far as I could trace it with the help of the usually-reliable TinEye Reverse Image Search.