Monday, December 26, 2016

Umoja: The (R)Evolution is Unity

Habari Gani! (What's the News in Swahili, the greeting during Kwanzaa) Christmas Day in Willingboro, South Jersey-right outside of Philadelphia-was spent recovering from the road trip from Lawrence, Kansas and gearing up for the first day of Kwanzaa, the Principle Umoja. No gifts, no tree, barely any Christmas songs, we didn't even cook, just ordered some bomb Indian food. No, today is the day. We got soul and blues music blasting in the kitchen while the collards simmer and the sweet potato pie cools in the back room. Mama is making her African dishes, peanut stew and the like, the Kinara is waiting to be lit, libations are waiting to be poured, and in about 45 minutes, friends and family arrive with their non-tangible, non-capitalistic gifts to be shared. What I'm trying to say is, this is the most Black Lit season I've ever had.

Don't get me wrong, I love Jesus, but this year called for something a little more (r)evolutionary. I got my 10 month old daughter, Alanna Naledi, strapped to my chest while she gets some rest so she can beat whatever cold she's trying not to catch and not be so cranky for all the folk she gets to meet for the first time, and I want her to know that Christmas can be white and Kwanzaa can be Black, it's all good.

The year 2016 needs Kwanzaa, because the year 2016 has been #woke but it's also been #problematic on all sides of the fence. Umoja, the first principle of Unity out of the 7 Principles and days of of Kwanzaa, has been one of the most lacking of principles in the world. True, some Black folk have come together, some white folk have joined the fight who weren't a part of it before, but in other ways there has been more division in 2016 than ever before. So this year, I wanted to write on the principles of Kwanzaa as a meditation, a dedication, to what's real. Let me tell a little story about Unity:

In the Black community there has always been a struggle for unity, since we got to this land we've had to deal with the different languages and different ways of doing things. During the Civil Rights Movement, this struggle continued. Our ancestors, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bayard Rustin, had to deal with their own struggle to be unified. Dr. King was a fiery, gun-toting, southern preacher when he met Rustin, a communist sympathizing, gay, Quaker pacifist. Because of Rustin's knowledge of Gandhian nonviolent activism, King needed him. But because they were so effective together, the counterrevolution sought to tear them apart. They told King that if he continued to work with Rustin they would start a commie/gay rumor. In fear of the movement, King was forced to deny Rustin and Bayard was forced to the sidelines. That was, until March on Washington needed someone with Rustin's skill. When it was time to march, Rustin stood up and so did King. Now, King could have given into his homophobia and said there was no way that he could work with Rustin's brand of radicalism and intersectionality, and Rustin could have said that King wasn't intersectional enough for him, that in order for him to work with King, King would have to acknowledge his ignorance publicly. But they realized that not only what they were fighting was bigger than their own individualism, but also that they needed each other. So they unified.

Let's move forward to the inception of the Black Panther party. Many of us know that the counterrevolution helped to bring them down with a mixture of drugs, infiltration and violence. But the lies may have been the most insidious weapon against them. Once people start to see their brothers and sisters as potential enemies, the battle is all but lost. Of course there are always going to be informants in the movement, but it is actually the fear of informants that causes so much disunity within the movement.

Let's move ahead one more place to the Occupy Movement. In Oakland's Occupy Movement I saw it with my own eyes, the fear that someone was a police officer made it impossible to trust and impossible to work together. But the truth of the matter is this, informants can be turned, it happens all the time. Letting go of fear and hatred and moving in unity and love is the greatest weapon against infiltrators, because in unity and love and acceptance, infiltrators realize that they are on the wrong side of the movement.

I look today at our own movements, the Black Lives Matter Movement, the No DAPL/Mni Wiconi Movements, and I see how important Unity is. We can spend our time infighting, outfighting, labelling some enemies and some comrades, but it is disunity that will bring down the struggle for freedom.

This is why, on this day, I choose to never allow anyone to sow and water seeds of discord between me and others. I will not accept claims of who I should and shouldn't work with and will not align myself with counterrevolutionary divisiveness. I will work on creating a culture of calling people into Unity rather than calling them out of disunity, and invite all to stand on this principle Blackness with me. May it be so. Ashe.

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