On the seventh day of Kwanzaa, Lisha woke up and ran
into Grandmotherís room.
"What did you make me for Kwanzaa?" she asked.
Grandma rubbed her eyes, peeked at Lisha and then pulled
the covers over her head.
"Grandma, itís morning. Time to get up and give
me my present!" said Lisha.
"Harambee," said Grandma, peeking out from the
"Whatís a harambee?" asked Lisha. During
Kwanzaa, Grandmother used Swahili words to teach important lessons.
Grandma sat up and patted the bed beside her. Lisha
pushed herself up onto the bed and snuggled against Grandma. "Whatís
a harambee?" She asked again.
"Harambee means we all pull together," said
Grandma. "It means that when I make a gift for you, itís not just
for you Ė itís for the whole community. When you receive it, you have
to use it to make the world a better place."
"How can I do that?" asked Lisha.
"You have to figure it out for yourself," said
"Iíll try," said Lisha.
"Then you may have my Harambee present," said
Grandma. "Itís in the box under my bed."
Lisha slid down off the bed, lifted the covers, and
poked her head underneath. The box was bigger than she had expected.
Grandma would never make her enough cookies to fill a box that big. And it
was too small for a swingset. She pulled the box out from under the bed.
"Go ahead. Open it!" said Grandma. "I
just finished it last night."
Lisha lifted the lid. It was a red, black and green
sweater. She picked it up. It was huge! And it looked as if it had three
head holes, but no arm holes. It was a big bright baggy Harambee sweater!
"Grandma, this is silly! Itís way too big for
me!" Lisha started to put it back in the box.
Grandma looked sad. "Donít you like it? I used a
pattern for a Mexican Poncho. But I put black where their flag has white,
so it would be our flag Ė red, black and green. And I made three head
holes, so you could reach your arms out. Now try it on."
It was too big and too bright, and it had too many head
holes. Lisha wanted to please Grandma. She knew Grandma had worked many
hours on this sweater. So she pulled it on and pushed her head through the
middle hole. She felt silly. She stood in the middle of Grandmaís room
and tried to smile. Her feet barely poked out the bottom of that big,
bright, bulky Harambee sweater.
"Now go to the park and play," said Grandma.
"Iím sure that sweater will keep you warm." The park was at
the end of her block. So, Lisha went outside, wearing her big, bright,
bulky Harambee sweater.
She walked past Winnaís house, but Winna wasnít
home. She walked past Aziziís house, but Azizi wasnít home. And she
walked past Koseyís house, hoping he wasnít home. She was almost past
his house when he jumped out from behind a bush and shouted "Habari
Gani?" which means, "Whatís the news?" Before she
could answer, "Imani," which means faith, he said,
"I have a new light saber, and Iím going to slice you to
ribbons." Lisha tried to
run, but her legs just tangled in her big, bright, bulky
"You canít run and you canít hide!" teased
Kosey. He followed her just inches behind, tapping her with his light
saber, all the way to the park.
There was her best friend Winna, flying a blue kite
decorated with a drawing of red and yellow muhindi, corn..
"See this pretty kite?" called Winna. "My uncle made it for
me Ė for Kwanzaa. Since Kwanzaa presents are for everybody, you can fly
it too." She held out the string for Lisha.
Kosey poked at the kite with his light saber, but it was
too high in the air. Lisha reached an arm out through one of the head
holes her big, bright, bulky Harambee sweater, and grabbed the string. The
kite started to sag. "Run!" shouted Winna. Lisha tried to run,
but she toppled to the grass in her big, bright, bulky Harambee sweater.
Winna helped her up, and then took the string and ran
across the park to bring the kite aloft. Lisha watched the kite rise in
the sky, the ears of corn bobbing as the kite moved farther and farther
away. Kosey chased after Winna, waving his light saber in front of him,
but everybody knew Kosey could never run as fast as Winna.
Something tickled the back of her neck. Lisha turned.
There was Azizi holding his new puppet, which wore the robes of a West
African chieftain. "See," said Azizi. "You move the wooden
cross-piece like this, and the puppet moves. My brother made it for me for
Kwanzaa." May I try it?" asked Lisha. Azizi looked doubtful, but
then he said, "Kwanzaa gifts are for sharing," and he held it
out to her. When Lisha tried to make the puppetís leg move, itís foot
caught a loop of her big, bright, bulky Harambee sweater.
"Hold still," said Azizi. He tugged at the
puppetís foot and the string snapped. Azizi looked sad. "My brother
will be furious," he said. "Donít worry," said Lisha.
"My grandma can fix it." Azizi hugged his puppet to his chest
and started running to Lishaís house.
Lisha looked up to see Winnaís kite. She looked higher
and higher. Finally she saw it, almost in the clouds. Just then a cold
breeze came up, and the kite rose higher still. Lisha pulled her arms
inside her big, bright, bulky Harambee sweater. Grandma was right. This
sweater did keep her warm. But what about Winna? Winna wasnít wearing a
sweater. And Grandma had made this sweater big. Surely there was room for
both of them inside. Lisha saw Winna halfway across the park. She started
walking toward her.
Winna saw Lisha and started running toward her. Kosey
was still following with his light saber.
"You must be cold. Come get in my sweater with
me," said Lisha. Winna ducked inside the big, bright, bulky Harambee
sweater. Soon, her head poked out one of the extra head holes. "This
is fun," she said. Then Kosey caught up with them. He looked cold.
His arms were covered with goosebumps. And he wasnít waving his light
saber at them any more.
"Could I get in your sweater, too?" asked
"Heís always mean to us," said Winna.
"Freezing might teach him a lesson."
"Grandma said I have to use this sweater to make
the world a better place," said Lisha.
"The world might be a better place without Kosey,"
Lisha paused and thought. Would Kosey go away and never
bother them again if she didnít let him into the sweater? Then she heard
Grandmaís voice: We all pull together. Grandma would want her to
let Kosey in. But he had to understand what it meant.
"Habari Gani?" asked Lisha, meaning "Whatís
"My new light saber," said Kosey, proudly.
"Iíll cut you to ribbons." He swished the light saber at the
"See, I told you!" said Winna.
"Forget it!" said Lisha. She and Winna started
"Imani," said Kosey, shivering, running
after them. "It means faith."
"Heís just pretending," said Winna.
"Itís a start," said Lisha.
She held up one side of the big, bright, bulky Harambee
sweater so Kosey could get in. Then the three of them walked back to Lishaís
house where Grandmother served them hot chocolate from the kikombe,
the cup of togetherness.