Kujichagulia: A Lesson In Self-Determination 



Kujichagulia                                                                                © Jerome DeVonni Wilson


It was a marvelous night of skies open to endless possibilities, some stars holding hands, others winking and flirting from afar. But the woman wasn’t privy to any of it. She’d been awakened by another bad dream — a nightmare that was the symptom of the reality of a tumultuous life. The life being hers, the incubus not as much so. It always started with the moaning. Deep, frightfully agonizing moaning that came up from the stomach, through the chest, and escaped in harsh trices out of nostrils flared bovinely.

Third time. That’s how many times the demon had reared his head. She figured it had to be some type of demon because, well, angels don’t cause that type of angst, do they?

She touched him. Didn’t necessarily want him woke, but settled on it being the lesser of two evils. Maybe her caress would divert him from the episode. Maybe. 

Maybe he’d escape the wrath of his slumber only to return to the real world, disgruntled and agitated. Maybe. Or would he part his lids and display eyes full of gratitude, as his pulse wound down and strong arms drew her into his body to melt away to someplace serene.

He did.

Morning came fast. Breakfast was three course, juice, and milk. Standing, he was six foot even and she, a half a foot shy of that. Both were physically fit, in their mid-twenties and madly in love.

The type of love where it becomes overbearing, an entity of its own that superimposes itself over the genuine love that was its progenitor. The type of love that holds the conscience hostage, bound and gagged, takes over, and calls the shots. An injurious substance, insecure and unfastened.

Not so for her. You have to understand that there’s a contrast here. An emotional creature, hers was the type of love where she remembered his touch and character before the superimposition of the lesser being. The type of love that holds on to the sweet seeds he planted that bloomed into the gloom of present day, because she’d felt them, tasted them with her own tongue. So hopeful that she was hopeless, heavy hearted, and swollen.


Right there on the right jawline. About as puffy as it was a few days ago. He was left-handed, loved baseball. 

Look, they say out of all people who make New Year’s resolutions, only 50% will keep them for ninety days. They made it all the way through Christmas with no quarrels. She was beginning to think he had really meant it. His New Year’s resolution was going to be to discontinue the abuse. 

Kujichagulia is Swahili for “self-determination.” Ironically, it was also the second day of Kwanzaa and the day in which he failed to exert control over his temper. But he did succeed. Yes. That night he took a moment to do some soul searching. At some point along that journey, he was able to connect, embrace, and contract with his inner self. Him in his most righteous state. Mentally purified. Spiritually cleansed. Innocent in a childlike way.

We don’t know if the polls are right. We don’t know if the percentages are correct. All we know is that he struck her again. Right side of the face, the upper cheekbone area. We never knew why she was battered or what the triggers were that incited his ill will. That type of information is deemed surplusage, though the devil is in the details.

A child’s exposure to domestic violence risks transmitting violent behavior from generation to generation. She knew that his mother had been beaten by his stepfather when he was in grade school. He had alluded to it during those vulnerable sessions when he asked for forgiveness. He was apologetic. She was optimistic. The swelling would come to pass.

But on that night, the night that he broke the resolution…desecrated the contract with self…

The incubus awaited him in his sleep as if it was nestled in his pillow. He drifted off and was confronted by the self that he used to be. The younger self, frightened and disappointed. The boy yelled at him vehemently and begged for him to stop! The exact same way he used to yell, swing, and cry when his mother was beaten. All the while, the boy — who was him — was pulling on his leg as he wretched in pain, until it came off.

The leg.

It was dismembered.

A few days later it bled.

Not the leg. Her nose. It was more of a facial muff than a blow but it was injured all the same. Cost another leg. Not hers, his. His self was infuriated and when he went to sleep he was tormented. Again.

And again. He’d grabbed her with brute force and slung her onto the bed. It cost him an arm and the loss of sleep. Halfway through January and he had lost three limbs and three nights of sleep. She’d lost peace of mind, three nights of sleep, and most of her husband.

The next couple of weeks went by fast, as did his other arm and body. The morning following the episode of his body being snatched, he finally divulged to her what was taking place in the dreams. She beseeched him to stop the fighting. He was losing her, while losing himself to his self. There was no way to sustain. Couldn’t he see?

She couldn’t see.

He had struck her in the eye. He couldn’t sleep. But he slept and he wept when he crept up on his self. Begging. Him begging his self not to take what was left of him. Pleading. Him pleading to stop hurting her! Squeezing his noggin furiously until…

He realized he should’ve quit while he was still a head. (get it?)

He never woke.

It was a marvelous night of skies open to endless possibilities, some stars holding hands, others winking and flirting from afar…


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