December 28 & 29
December 28th and 29th are the 3rd and 4th days of Kwanzaa. The themes of these days are Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) and Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics). On the surface these do not sound like the general feel-good (or feel-bad) sentiments that accompany most holidays. For the record, other days of the celebration include themes such as Unity, Purpose, and Faith–themes more consistent with older holidays. Ujima and Ujamaa may be overshadowed by these more traditional holiday themes, but all are equally important.
Umoja, or Unity, is the first step, asking the community to recognize itself as a united group.
Kujchagulia, Self-determination, asks the African-American community to define itself and its future on its own terms rather than through the eyes of others.
Ujima and Ujamaa are the nuts and bolts of the operation. They require not just talk but actual tangible steps to achieve.
One man who did just that was Muhammad Nassardeen. His organization Recycling Black Dollars was an effort to keep the money of the African-American community within the community. White neighborhoods recycle dollars 5 times. Latino communities recycle dollars 3 times. And Asian-American communities as much as nine times. But Nassardeen found that the African-American community recycled the average dollar less than 1 time.
By creating and encouraging businesses and organizations, including local churches, to bank and buy within the Los Angeles African-American community Nassardeen helped to increase the wealth of the community substantially.
Unfortunately Nassardeen died in October 2007 of a heart attack. But his contributions to Cooperative Economics are remembered this Kwanzaa in the city where Kwanzaa first greeted the world.
[originally published Dec. 29, 2007]