Day 4: Ujamaa
To build and maintain our own stores, shops & other businesses and to profit from them together.
“The economic philosophy of Black nationalism only means that our people need to be reeducated into the importance of controlling the economy of the community in which we live…which…means that we won’t…have to be constantly involved in picketing and boycotting other people in other communities in order to get jobs.” -Malcolm X
Brother Malcolm’s quote speaks to the importance that economics plays in the liberation of African people. As generations of freedom fighters before us can attest, we can only achieve a low level of independence so long as we are dependent on forces outside of our community for our bread and butter. Many a revolutionary has found themselves at a crossroads, where they realized that working for the freedom of African people does not eliminate one’s need for food, clothing, and shelter. At some point, we begin to realize that if we can not meet our own basic needs, we will ultimately be faced with the situation where the revolution becomes a part-time hobby that we engage in once our 9 to 5 jobs are done. As Brother Malcolm saw, in order to truly create liberation for African people, we must take control of our community’s purse strings. And since Black Americans alone are the ninth largest spending block in the world – we have some very large purse strings!
But it’s not easy. When you decide to love our community to the point where we can “build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together” you have to be willing to accept the fact that the hardest people to love are a people who hate themselves. Are you willing to commit to buying and supporting Black, even when it’s not given in return? Are you willing to love your people hard enough, that even if the service is poor, you will smile and say “I will continue to support you because you are my sister or my brother and help you improve your service in the process”? Will you love your people enough to stop looking for a job outside your community and bring your gifts to the village to help create jobs for your own people? This is what Brother Malcolm was talking about. This is the principle of Ujamaa.
The 28 Day Nguzo Saba Project
Starting on January 26, 2014, a non-profit I co-founded, Sankofa Community
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!
Principle: Umoja (Unity):
“To strive for and maintain unity in our family, community, nation and race.”
“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. ” ~Kenyan Proverb
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.
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