During Kwanzaa, the third principle of Ujima serves as a reminder that Black people of every profession and background must use their talents to meet the collective needs of their race locally, nationally, and across the globe. As the panelists who spoke at a discussion about Ujima during the Kwanzaa season explained, such magic unfolds for artists of African descent when their work espouses positive, thought-provoking ideas and builds a web of economic and social support in their communities. 

For instance, Kyna Clemons, a quilter, homeschool mother and panelist, reflected on how she used her talents to expand African-centered education opportunities and form investment groups. During the nearly three-hour discussion at We Act Radio in Southeast, Ras Lidj, a Southeast native and pioneer of the Reggo sound that blends reggae and gogo, revealed his plans to outfit industrial workers like those he met in Ghana with protective gear. Another panelist, a bassist and D.C. native by the name of Corcoran Holt, spoke about a culturally affirming coming of age that instilled in him the value of self-love and love for African people. To raucous applause, he announced upcoming workshops scheduled to take place in some D.C. schools next year.

On Dec. 28, hip-hop artist and educator Bomani Armah wrapped up the program with his showcase of lyrical material designed to teach listeners — often times students and teachers —  about Frederick Douglas and other aspects of Black History in jeopardy of erasure. He too tied collective work and responsibility to his craft, telling the story of how he became a homeschool parent and immersed his now teenage sons in an African-centered environment. 

Key Takeaways for the Black African Masses

All in all, this Ujima discussion, hosted by the Banneker City Local Coordinating Committee of the Pan-African Federalist Movement, demonstrated the level of collective grassroots work being done in the District to make African people more self determined. It also showed the potential for a larger, stronger socio-economic-political infrastructure much like what some African leaders advocated for during the 20th century in their demand of the United States of Africa. 

Under a government of united African countries, leaders of said countries would have to cede authority and national identity to the collective, all in the interest of African solidarity on the world stage. Proponents of this structure argued that Africans’ collective strength could prevent the European exploitation of individual countries and class warfare. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana described these ills as part of the last stage of imperialism where colonizers maintained control of African resources with the help of African leaders who oppress their own people. . 

Decades later, the African Union, formerly known as the Organization of African Unity, doesn’t reflect what Nkrumah and other members of what would be known as the Casablanca bloc articulated, much to the detriment of African people living on the continent and around the world. Through a military presence and exploitative economic deals, China, Russia, the United States and other countries profit from African land and resources in a manner much like what has happened to Black Washingtonians toward the end of a crack-cocaine era that devastated majority-Black communities and eroded trust. 

Amid the string of individual Black success stories, locally and nationally, in sports, entertainment, media, politics, and other areas of human activity, many people erroneously believed that structural racism no longer existed, or had at least been mitigated. All the while, developers, multinational corporations and banks holding stolen generational wealth mounted economic and political attacks on small Black family businesses and community institutions whose support in majority-Black neighborhood communities had waned. 

Today, those who’ve suffered displacement in the District blame Black residents who left for Prince George’s County in the 1990s and D.C’s  Black political elite who helped spur gentrification. If such an assertion is true, that means that members of the District’s Pan-African community, now more than ever, must build more institutions and form collaborations that would better allow them to adhere to the Nguzo Saba on a wider scale and of greater benefit to the Black masses.   

Black Washingtonians, especially those living east of the Anacostia River, need to understand the possibility of a socio-economic-political infrastructure outside the status quo in which they have autonomy. 

Members of the Pan-African Federalist Movement support self determination for D.C.’s Black communities and other African communities across the world. However, much like the political leaders in this new United African States would have to concede power to their constituents, members of local Pan-African organizations should also outline a plan in which they come together to not only meet the immediate needs of the oppressed masses, but help them find their African self.