Day 3 – Ujima – Collective Work & Responsibility – Muhammad Ali

Hey folks! As promised here is Day e of the 28 Day Nguzo Saba Devotion Project I mentioned in my post about Kwanzaa Haters finding a loving spirit this year. Enjoy!

Day 3: Ujima

(click here for Day 2)

Collective Work & Responsibility

To build and maintain our community together and to make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.



“I know I got it made while the masses of black people are catchin’ hell, but as long as they ain’t free, I ain’t free.” Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali’s quote is a reminder that it is our responsibility to work collectively toward the liberation of African people. Unlike so many Blacks who do well for themselves and forget about the masses, Ali understood that he was a part of a collective struggle regardless of how much money and fame he received. This courage and sense of responsibility is needed now more than ever as our community continues to suffer from the catastrophic conditions that we face.

Many of us will be tempted to turn our backs to the struggles of our people in an attempt to preserve ourselves without understanding the powerful principal of Ujima. This principal will strengthen and encourage us to take on the responsibility of solving our problems no matter how difficult they may be. While America works to convince us to become individuals who are separate from our brothers and sisters, we must remember that “as long as they ain’t free, [we] ain’t free”.


The 28 Day Nguzo Saba Project

Starting on January 26, 2014, a non-profit I co-founded,  Sankofa Community Empowerment (“SCE”) revived the Nguzo Saba 28 Day Devotion Project.

For each day of Kwanzaa 2014 SCE sent out one daily devotional that incorporated the Kwanzaa Nguzo Saba principle for that day. These devotionals were based on quotes from our ancestors, elders and African proverbs and will tie in the meaning of that day’s principle.

After Kwanzaa officially ended on January 1, 2015, SCE continued the Nguzo Saba Devotion project for an additional 21 days. Why? Well there are several reasons.

1. In light of the traumas we are currently facing as a community, 7 days is not enough time for us to address what we are dealing with.

2. It is generally believed that it takes 21 days to create/change a habit. We want our community to create new patterns of thinking that allow us to become a self sufficient community that can meet its own needs (like all healthy communities can do).

3. We believe Kwanzaa should be a verb. For a people who are still entrapped by the legacy of slavery and continuing institutional racism, it is imperative that we take every opportunity to be intentional about our healing on an on-going basis.

The 28 Day Nguzo Saba Devotion Project will provide the opportunity to reflect on powerful messages while learning how to apply the Kwanzaa principles to our daily lives.

As an example, on Mondays-when we celebrate the principle of Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)-consider making an effort to only support Black owned businesses and institutions with your dollars. On Fridays-when we celebrate Umoja (Unity)-consider what you can do to create a stronger sense of unity within our community, i.e. be intentional about greeting each other with a smile or mending old wounds with past friends and family.

These and other efforts will increase our ability to make the principles of Kwanzaa and community uplift more relevant throughout the year.
I’m going to be posting one of these devotionals for the next 28 days. I strongly encourage you all to read & share/forward the devotions and meditate on the messages and wisdom provided.

Be well – and Happy Kwanzaa!

Day 1: 

Principle: Umoja (Unity):

“To strive for and maintain unity in our family, community, nation and race.”


“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. ” ~Kenyan Proverb

Devotion Message:

During the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, Africans were strategically pitted against one another. Slave owners knew that enslaved Africans who were unified would be far too powerful to exploit. Countless slave narratives and legends like the Willie Lynch letter explain the level of thought and planning that went into keeping Africans from realizing their collective power. These “man made” divisions still exist and continue to keep us from working toward our collective empowerment.

We can easily see numerous ways that our society keeps us divided today via music, class structures, skin color, materialism, mis-education and a variety of other mechanisms. For this reason, it is imperative that we remember this unifying proverb as we experience this phenomenon. One stick on its own is easily snapped in two. But sticks in a bundle are not easily broken.

We must remember that most of the divisions within the Pan-African community were planned and scripted for us. We must begin meditating on the principle of Umoja/Unity so that we will gain strength from each other and become the “sticks in a bundle” which are unbreakable.


Looking for more thoughts from an Afro State of Mind? Check out my book Afro State of Mind: Memories of a Nappy Headed Black Girl now available on in paper back or available here for e-book download! And if you want to stay connected follow me on Twitter, “like” Afro State of Mind on Facebook or catch up on my latest youtube videos!

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