Kwanzaa Day 3: ‘Ujima’ Collective Work & Responsibility

By Kevin Onuma

InformAfricans – Today [Dec. 28] is the 3rd day of Kwanzaa and the principle of the day is ‘Ujima’ in the Swahili language, which represents ‘Collective Work & Responsibility’. Kwanzaa is a week-long festival for the purpose of honoring and celebrating Afrikan culture and traditions with family, friends and community.

Ujima Kwanzaa principle
‘Ujima’ Collective Work & Responsibility. Day 3 of Kwanzaa Principle/Observation.

Ujima [Collective Work & Responsibility]: “To build and maintain our community together and to make our Brother’s and sister’s problems, our problems and to solve them together.”

Global Africans, what does the 3rd Kwanzaa principle ‘Ujima‘ remind us all? Considering the fact that Africans are globally everywhere, in every continent and country; we must strive to work together towards achieving common goals and protect our interests — globally. This also mean, we share in each other’s success and failure.

When all is going well for Africans on the continent, our African-American brothers and sisters, should also share in our joy; mentally or physically. Likewise, if the going is rough in Africa, our brothers and sisters in diaspora should join those on the continent in struggle — towards achieving a common goal or interest. In other words, we all should share the responsibility towards making the African economy and life for global Africans, a better one.

With that said, below is an excerpt from  a publication by Dr. Maulana Karenga titled The African American Holiday of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family Community & Culture” which explains the purpose of Kwanzaa’s 3rd principle…Ujima [Collective Work & Responsibility]:

The Third Kwanzaa Principle is Ujima which is a commitment to be active and informed together on matters of common interest. It is also recognition and respect of the fact that without collective work and struggle, progress is impossible and liberation is unthinkable. More over, the principle of Ujima supports the fundamental assumption that ‘African‘ is not just an identity, but also a destiny and duty, i.e., a responsibility. In other words, our collective identity in the long run is a collective future. Thus, there is a need and obligation for us as self-conscious and committed people to shape our future with our own minds and hands and share its hardships and benefits together.

Ujima, as a principle and practice, also means that we accept the fact that we are collectively responsible for our failures and setbacks as well as our victories and achievements. And this holds true not only on the national level, but also on the level of family and organization or smaller units. Such a commitment implies and encourages a vigorous capacity for self-criticism and self-correction which is indispensable to our strength, defense and development as a people.

The principle of collective work and responsibility also points to the fact that African freedom is indivisible. It shelters the assumption that as long as any African anywhere is oppressed, exploited enslaved or wounded in any way in her or his humanity, all African people are. It thus, rejects the possibility or desirability of individual freedom in any unfree context: instead it poses the need for struggle to create a context in which all can be free. Moreover, Ujima rejects escapist and abstract humanism and supports the humanism that begins with commitment to and concern for the humans among whom we live and to whom we owe our existence, i.e., our own people.

In a word, real humanism begins with accepting one’s own humanity in the particular form in which exchanges with others in the context of our common humanity. It also posits that the liberation struggle to rescue and reconstruct African history and humanity is a significant contribution to overall struggle for human liberation.

Kwanzaa principle ‘Ujima‘ reminds global Africans both on the continent and in diaspora — to continue working together, responsibly, towards achieving fundamental goals for the betterment of our people and of course, root: AFRIKA.

Kwanzaa is observed and celebrated in the US among conscious African-Americans, from December 26 to January 1st every year.

Reference: The African American Holiday of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family Community & Culture by Maulana Karenga. Publisher: University of Sankore Press, 1988, ISBN 0-943412-09-9

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