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Kwanzaa: Ujima / Collective Work and Responsibility

It’s Me!



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“Am I my Brother’s Keeper?”

It’s Kwanzaa, day 3, and according to the principle of Ujima (oo-gee-ma), which translates into collective work and responsibility, yes we are!

All across America there existed all Black, well-developed communities, with “well-developed” being the operative phrase.  In such communities, there were grocery stores, doctor’s offices, schools, banks, etc; whatever facilities and cultural aesthetics that were necessary to create thriving communities were included in these communities. Not that these communities were anomalies, they were created out of necessity and by the rules of Jim Crow, but some functioned far better than others; and, the residents worked together to maintain and sustain these communities by taking responsibility for them, investing their monies in them, and working together to help them thrive.

Hollywood made a movie about one, Rosewood, an all Black community in Rosewood, Florida. 

Renowned Harlem Renaissance writer and member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, Zora Neale Hurston, set many of her vernacular-based stories in the all Black town in which she grew up and her family served, Eatonville, Florida.

charles ogletreeHarvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree and famed attorney, the late Johnnie Cochran, worked for justice to be served for the survivors and relatives of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District often referred to as “Black Wall Street”–calling for the survivors to be awarded reparations as a result of the racial violence that destroyed this thriving community. A documentary called, “Before They Die” was Johnnie Cochranmade by Reggie Turner in 2008 chronicling the last living survivors (www.beforetheydie.org).

We are our brother’s keeper.

The idea of sororities and fraternities do a really good job in reinforcing this idea. In Black communities, there are certain aspects of it that will always prevail: good food, in the South, football games, and the familiarity of fraternities and sororities. For students that have attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and for students that have attended “traditional” schools where they are active members of their Black Student Unions (BSUs), a great number are members of the Divine Nine, the nine historic sororities and fraternities that collectively make up the PanHellenic Council: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Zeta divine ninePhi Beta Sorority, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. Membership in these organizations helps students to work together in service initiatives for the sake of contributing to the communities in which the organizations serve; and, all of the PanHellenic organizations have service at the helm of their principles where all of the members come together out of love and obligation to serve. We are our brother’s keeper.

When confronted by tasks, events, or phenomena that may take place within our communities, but in which we are not directly involved, we may often ask, “What does that have to do with me?” In the words of Stevie Wonder, “Everything! ‘Cause we all play a part in each other’s existence. (“Take the Time Out”–Conversation Peace).”

In the spirit of Ujima, I am my brother’s keeper.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am my brother’s keeper too!

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