UJIMA, COLLECTIVELY WE RISE OR FALL TOGETHER
A historical perspective of Ujima when Jim and Jane Crow were directing the hate, racism, and terror on our black ancestors they still sought the goal of community collective growth. Forced by white society to live outside the norms of American society. It was essential to work as collective groups to fight the perils that comprised America’s bigoted system of institutional racism. My original intent this morning was to ask this question. How has the infusion is the third principle of Kwanza, Ujima, revealed that collective principle in our black communities? To recognize collective work and responsibility. We must understand the historical strength of collective work and responsibility that was practiced by our ancestors. If you knocked on doors in our nation's black communities and ask this question, can you comprehend the significance of Umija? Could the black residents in those homes, flats, mobile homes, apartments, and condos identify ten black historical black people who impacted the development of economic self-sufficiency in our communities? The most interesting aspect or addition to those questions would be that you would need to exclude any person who was in the arena of entertainment or sports.
The institutional racist design that existed in so many of our communities created a sense of ignorance of the vast achievements of those who have sought and fought to overcome so many obstacles to attain and seek independence for themselves and others. We must deliver that important knowledge of historical significance to our youths. Where should we direct the teaching of this knowledge? It must be delivered in our homes and community institutions. Beyond learning those spinning moves on the courts, or taking knocks upside the head on football fields, or unmasking unknown rapping talents, or hoping to be identified as the next Denzel Washington or Halle Berry. We must deliver the knowledge of Ujima. If the imaginary Wakanda is to become a real-time Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or Chicago. Those black babies we teach the philosophy of Ujima could 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 with 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 of the search in beginning this essay on Ujima. 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 realize that only 20 years after coming out of the bonds of slavery, southern blacks created this organization to assist their brothers and sisters of color. The CFA provided aid and assistance in building farming interests within the black farming communities. The CFA helped sick and disabled members manage the difficult times faced because of racial bigotry. The CFA also taught orderly principles of political economics. Within a short period, the Colored Farmers Alliance had nearly 1.2 million farmers and farm workers on its membership rolls. The organization also aligned its resources to create a publication, as well as having regional and local conventions and sponsoring many black educational initiatives. Let me say it again the Colored Farmers Alliance had 1.2 million black members in southern states shortly after our ancestors were released from the chains of slavery. You must understand also that a significant majority of these CFA members were unable to either read or write. Yet, our ancestors understood by aligning common interests they stood a chance of maintaining a growing viable black community.
Another interesting point of note the Colored Farmers Alliance worked with a white counterpart organization, The Southern Alliance. The goal was to unite both black and whites on common points of interest. For instance, developing price points for seeds to maximize profits from their crops. This southern alliance led to the Populist Movement and the National Populist Party. Can you believe in the belly of the so-called southern beast in the 1890’s whites and blacks were working together? Now, you know that wasn’t going to go over well with those established southerners who didn’t anticipate nor accept any degree of progressive racial cooperation. Those white elites in racist power-driven southern establishment knew that this collective 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. Booker T. Washington, probably thought he was doing right by his people. However, he was simply a pawn in stifling any attempt for blacks to get a leg up economically in those southern states. Poor black and white farmers collectively worked together to amass control of the agricultural market. No way was this effort going to be given life, the fact of the matter is that teaching poor whites to hate and terror blacks were the goal of the elite white landowning power brokers. Even Booker T. Washington played a hand in the destruction of the Colored Farmers Alliance which I found quite surprising.
The United States Supreme Court 1896 decision enacted "Plessey vs. Ferguson" that enshrined separate but equal into law.
Booker T. Washington worked hard to destabilize the Colored Farmers Alliance which set the stage for Jim and Jane Crow, by destroying the black and white alliances manifested between southern black and white farmers. Well, looking back historically is all about looking ahead for black community growth. Can we as a people imagine now 131 years later since the founding of the Colored Farmers Alliance no other alliance has been as successful as the CFA? Could another alliance be created, “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 they could positively impact their pocketbooks They had to unite collectively and focus on common goals. The dream was to build better tomorrow for themselves. They simply weren’t mature enough critical thinkers to understand how their actions would 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 kind could be used as a racist 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. We need a collective group of individuals willing to work collectively for a common good. Within each of your hands, each of your minds, and each of your souls is 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 for 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 Ujima, Ujima, Ujima.