Nia - Purpose - to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Overview of Nia -
Nia is much more that vague acknowledgement that we each have a purpose, or a commitment to go pursue one’s individual purpose. Nia is the acceptance of a collective purpose, in the same way one would accept a gift of great value.
Nia is rooted in an understanding of the powerful legacy of Blackness, from our African heritage to the ways that our people have made amazing contributions in every land and among every people all across the diaspora. Nia then asks the question “how will I protect and build upon this legacy?”
Nia in Christian Practice -
I was privileged enough to grow up in a church where the multifaceted greatness of Black people in America was celebrated in multiple ways from Sunday School lessons to special programs and events. We do our people, especially our children our disservice if we think that we can Biblically educate people without culturally educating them too. Efforts to remove cultural education from Christian education are spiritually dangerous.
The stories of the Bible itself run in and out of Africa. Early Christianity was nurtured and raised on the African continent long before it found a home in Europe. Christianity has nurtured leaders from the most militant to those who have worked hardest for integration, and everywhere in between. Churches ought to find ways to share these stories, even the stories of the people whose tactics might differ from ours. We never know how a more robust knowledge of the past might inspire the next generation to take us to heights we never imagined.
Biblical Examples of Nia
In Exodus 20, when the Ten Commandments are given, God begins by reminding the people of God’s work in their past. This is one of numerous examples when the people were invited to remember great people and great victories in their past as they move into their future.
Nia is rooted in the same principle. When our actions toward building a collective future are rooted in the greatness of our past and present legacy, our actions are deeper, stronger, and more sustainable.
Practicing Nia at Home
Ways that we can practice Nia at home include:
- Telling the stories of our families’ greatness - All of our families have stories of perseverance, of success against all odds, of trailblazing, of doing what others were not doing or what others said could not be done, of defiance against an unjust system, and many more examples of greatness. Unearthing and telling these stories so that future generations know more than stories that break out into the collective memory, but that they know their own stories as well.
- Talking about legacy - Words like legacy can carry a lot of weight, and it can seem by using we are expecting every child to try to be Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, or Dr. King. Having intergenerational conversations where adults can share their knowledge of the legacies handed down to them, and how they have tried to honor it and expand it and can help younger generations wrap their minds around what it means for them to do the same.
Practicing Nia in the Community
Ways that we can practice Nia in the community include:
- Lifting up and telling our community stories - Our communities have their unique stories and legends whose stories invite others to live into and further their work.