Happy Kwanzaa – Umoja


Habari gani-what’s the news for the first day of Kwanzaa? Umoja. Umoja is a Kiswahili word that means unity-to be together as one. This sounds simple enough. If everyone would just work together, then we could unite; but, as a wise person once said, “Simple is complicated enough.”

I’ve spent quite a bit of time surfing the internet for black websites. There are many sites with groups that host serious discussions on how to improve black life. The diversity of thought redefines the word spectrum. There are black people who want nothing whatsoever to do with being black; blacks who are down with being black, but prefer multiculturalism; blacks who want absolutely nothing to do with whites; and blacks who work for the total destruction of Western civilization. I haven’t even covered the interconnections of politics, religion, education, sexual preferences, class and so forth.

When you think about it, how will we ever achieve Umoja? I was absolutely stumped on this, but as blues singer, Keb Mo’, says, “Keep it simple.”

I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by the venerable Dr. John Henrik Clarke a few years before he died, during which a young man spent five, long minutes arrogantly explicating the problems of black people. When he finally got to his question, he asked Dr. Clarke to tell every one else what they should do to uplift the black race.

Dr. Clarke answered his question in seconds. “Begin with yourself and your family,” he said.

I never forgot how humbly that young man went back to his seat. Throughout the years, however, I have found Dr. Clarke’s advice to be the most frustrating to follow, the most difficult to achieve, and the easiest to ignore.

How can I unite the community if I cannot unite my own family? Every obstacle that conscious people will meet in the community, they will find right in their individual households. If we learn to unite our families, we might have a shot at uniting the community, but before we attempt this, consider following the commandment left to us by our ancestors on the temple walls of Egypt long before the Greeks were credited with the saying-Know Thyself.


There are many methods. Here is one.

There is a South African word called Ubuntu. It means, I am a person because you are a person and I need you to be the best that you can be so that I can be the best that I can be. Ubuntu is not just a South African concept. It is an African concept with many names. Umoja is one.

On YouTube.com, Nelson Mandela says of Ubuntu that, in his childhood, when a stranger entered the village, he did not have to worry about where he was going to stay or what he was going to eat. These things were automatically given to him.

How often do we allow judgment of one another to get in our way of giving to others, especially family members? What happened to the concept of giving simply because there was a genuine need? Are not these moments when the mystery of God works its magic? Isn’t this when some of our own genuine needs mysteriously are met? Could this be one way of how unity, Umoja, Ubuntu manifests prosperity-all working together?

If this is the family motto and each family member reciprocates, what can such a family accomplish? More wonderfully, what can such a community full of such families accomplish? Umoja.

Happy Kwanzaa.


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