#EmbracingKwanzaa is an original series by Grits & Gospel and exclusively distributed through Blavity that is dedicated to putting a spotlight the importance of Kwanzaa's seven principles and how embracing them can better lead to our collective progress.
Ujamaa is my personal favorite principle of Kwanzaa, as I have had a first-hand perspective of the massive racial wealth chasm that exists in America today. The harsh reality is that in 2017 the median white family has 69 times the total net worth of the median black family. And while today is not the day to dwell on that fact, it is a great day to imagine the possibilities.
Have you ever heard of Black Wall Street? Back in the early twentieth century, during the oil boom of the 1910’s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, there was a bustling town called Greenwood, full of black folks committed to establishing businesses and supporting each other as a community. From around 1907 to 1921, Greenwood was booming with grocery stores, banks, libraries and more, as black lawyers, realtors, doctors and other professionals set up shop in prime positions to help out others in whatever way was practical.
Tragically, Greenwood was essentially burned down during the Tulsa race riots, which is documented as one of the deadliest massacres in American history — and it’s no secret why. The idea of black folks thriving economically amongst ourselves is a scary thing to many in this country. To be financially free would mean being more free from the grasp of broader American consumerism, which enjoys the lion’s share of the annual $1.2 trillion of blacks’ annual buying power.
But imagine if even an additional 10 percent of that money stayed within our community. Imagine if we could eliminate the negative stigmas around black businesses and make shopping amongst ourselves the cool thing to do. Back in the day, the people of Greenwood really didn’t have a choice in the matter of whose businesses they would patronize, but now it is easier than ever to seek out black merchants and companies. If they could do it back then, we can do it now. If we don’t support ourselves, who else can we expect to do so?
Success in a capitalistic society will take a collective effort. If we want to see more economic opportunity for black businesses, we need to make sure black banks are adequately capitalized. If we want to see our own succeed, then we need to support our own.
More financial education. More conscious direction of dollars. More investment into the community. Let’s get it!
When we make conscious efforts to support each other financially, we strive for Ujamaa.
Next up, Nia.
Missed a day? We got you!