Habari Gani?! Kujichagulia! Cardi B Was the Embodiment of Self-Determination in 2017

Cardi B at Tidal X: Brooklyn at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on Oct. 17, 2017, in New York City (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Tidal); photo illustration by GMG/The Root

This year, for each day of Kwanzaa, The Root is highlighting one person from the community who exemplifies the principle of the day.

On the second day of Kwanzaa, Dec. 27, the principle is Kujichagulia, or “self-determination.” To practice Kujichagulia is to define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.


The person we feel best exemplified self-determination this year was none other than Belcalis “Cardi B” Almanzar, who pussy-popped her way to stardom and single-handedly made “female rap” hot again. She was determined to make a way for herself, and determinedly did so—on her own terms. And like most folks who do it their way, she is as loved as she is loathed.

Cardi rose to stardom as an Instagram model, former stripper and reality-TV star, with no male crew to be the token of, throwing off respectability dictates as she stepped up to snatch the platinum ring (oh yeah, she’s about to get married). She is loud, brash, sexy, sexual and, as Leslie Jones said at this year’s BET Awards, “ghet-to.”


But rather than achieving success despite all these things, Cardi B is triumphant “because of” who is she and where she comes from: This year she earned her second top five Hot 100 hit, the appropriately named “No Limit,” after her debut entry, “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves),” reigned for three weeks.


We salute Cardi B for her authenticity, for her embrace of millennial feminism and for “Bodak Yellow,” the hottest record in these streets for the 1-7.

Only the real could relate.

Who do you think exemplified Kujichagulia, or self-determination, this year? Sound off in the comments!


Sidenote: Those practicing Kwanzaa greet each other with the words “Habari Gani?!” roughly translated as “What’s the good news?” To which participants respond with the principle of the day, in this case, “Kujichagulia!” (pronounced coogi-cha-gu-lee-yah).

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About the author

Angela Helm

Ms. Bronner Helm is a Contributing Editor at The Root. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.