Dec. 28, 2017
Ujima: An Historical Perspective
Historical Perspective on Collective Work & Responsibility
Even When Jim Crow Was Chomping At The Bit Our Ancestors Strove For Community Betterment
My original intent this afternoon was to ask this question since Kwanzaa defined today to recognize collective work and responsibility. Knock on the majority of doors in our black communities and ask if the residents in those homes, flats, mobile homes, condos could they identify 10 black historical black people who impacted the development of economic self-sufficiency in our communities. The interesting part of the question was that you would have to ignore any person who was in the arena of entertainment or athletics.
Is it by design that our communities are ignorant of the vast achievements of our ancestors who overcame many obstacles to attain and seek independence for themselves and others in the process of building something substantial. You see if our youth were to get the knowledge that beyond spinning moves on the court, or taking knocks upside the head on a football field, or unmasking unknown rapping talents, or hoping to be identified as the next Denzel or Halle. Those babies could actually strive to be business owners and/or wealth builders. Our babies could own their destiny rather than have their destiny controlled by others.
However, a funny thing happened on the way to complying that essay or provoked thought. My google search came up with the term Colored Farmers Alliance, which I must admit I was ignorant to up until that very day last year. Hell, I was a business major from an outstanding HBCU and I always thought I was well versed in our people’s historical past. Yet never did I have the knowledge that only 20 years after coming out of the hellish bonds of slavery. Southern blacks created this organization to assist their brothers and sisters of color by providing aid to assist in building farming interests within their communities. This organization helped sick and disabled members and taught orderly principles of political economics. Within a short period of time, this organization had over 1.2 million farmers and farm workers aligned to support a publication as well having conventions and sponsoring many educational initiatives. Let me say it again 1.2 million black members in southern states shortly after being released from the chains of forced slavery. You must understand also that many of these members were unable to either read or write. Yet, they understood by aligning common interest they actually stood a chance of maintaining a growing viable community.
Another interesting point of note the Colored Farmers Alliance worked with white counterpart organization, The Southern Alliance to unite both races on common points of interest like for instance price points for seeds in order to maximize profits from their crops. This southern alliance actually lead to the Populist Movement and the Populist Party. Can you believe in the belly of the so-called southern beast of segregation in the 1890’s, whites and blacks were actually working together? Now that cooperative coalition wasn’t going to go over well with established Southerners. Southerners who didn’t anticipate nor accept any degree of progressive racial cooperation. Those in the Southern Establishment knew that this movement had to be derailed, and derailed quickly. So just as happens in most cases those in power sent one of our own to extinguish the flames of community engagement. Poor Booker T. Washington, probably thought he was doing right by his people. However, he was simply a pawn in stifling any attempt for scuffling blacks to get a leg up economically in this nation. Can any of us forget the linkage of Booker T. Washington’s speech at the Atlanta Compromise in 1895 where he said:
“In all things social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet as the one hand in all things essential to mutual progress”
Less than one year later the horrid Supreme Court decision was enacted "Plessey vs. Ferguson" that enshrined separate but equal into law for more than 60% of the 20th Century. Damn it couldn't be said that a black man set the stage for Jim and Jane Crow by destroying the alliances manifested with those southern black and white farmers. Well, enough looking back this is all about looking ahead. Can we as a people imagine now 130 years since the founding of the Colored Farmers Alliance another alliance maybe it’s called “The Black Alliance of Urban Redevelopment”? Hey, our ancestors could hardly read or write and barely had clothes to cover their bodies. Yet each of these 1.2 million black souls understood only by uniting together. These souls knew to impact the pocketbooks as well as the success of what they owned. They had to unite, collectively join in common goals and build towards a better tomorrow. They simply weren’t as mature enough thinkers to understand how their actions would indeed shake up the apple cart of the elite Southern Aristocracy. These Black Farmers and Black Farm Workers also didn’t understand how one of their own would be used as a tool against this alliance of common interests. My personal feeling is that Brother Washington truly didn’t understand the depth or breadth of what he was encouraged to stifle. Our community now has the educated people resources to build such alliances for the betterment of the communities in which they live. Heck, what we don’t need is single voices calling out for engagement or waiting for that single leader to make this case. What is that common saying?
“United We Stand, Divided We Fall”.
Well, brothers and sisters we indeed have been falling for quite some time; just waiting, waiting, and waiting for the next leader to take us to the promised land. Well, my Black Brothers and Sisters in you, yes within each of you is that leader. Within your hands, mind, and soul are the power to redress and address our common concerns through collective positive action. My God, if black folks 20 years removed from the chains of bondage can align with common goals what is our excuse? The spirit of The Colored Farmers Alliance lives within each one of us we simply just need to unleash it. Happy Day Three of Kwanzaa Collective Work and Responsibility.
Ujima for Umojians!