OUR COMMON GROUND Kwanzaa 2013 -14


Kwanzaa (kwahn-ZAH) is an annual cultural observance, which is recognized by Black people from December 26 thru January 1, each year:

  • Kwanzaa is non-political.
  • Kwanzaa is non-religious.
  • Kwanzaa is not related to Christmas.*

* Annual Kwanzaa observances begin on December 26th, each year] 

2013 Kwanzaa banner

This year’s OUR COMMON GROUND KWANZAA message comes from our Brother, Friend and Comrade,OUR COMMON GROUND Voice, Dr. Ron Daniels.

The Nguzo Saba contains the core concepts and values of Kawaida and the foundation for Kwanzaa.  In a recent article, First Call for State of the Black World Conference III, I suggested that a spiritual and cultural revival is essential to combat and overcome the devastating State of Emergency afflicting the “dark ghettos” in Black America.  As we begin the celebration of Kwanzaa, it might be useful to restate the N’guzo Saba and discuss its relevance to healing our families and communities in a time of crisis.  So, I offer these reflections.

Dr. Ron Daniels, Founder and Director, IBW 21

Ron Daniels

The first Principle in the Nguzo Saba is Umoja/Unity. That Africans in America should be unified or act in concert to confront the State of Emergency should be self evident.  However, achieving Black unity can be challenging and illusive. In the name of pursuing the interests of Black people, what we have in the Black community is a myriad of leaders and organizations that all too often compete rather than cooperate with each other.  Moreover, various leaders and organizations have different ideologies and strategies for achieving full freedom/liberation. There is also a “class divide” between the more affluent sisters and brothers who have benefited from the “movement” and moved up in the world and the dispossessed left behind in abandoned and devastated “dark ghettos,” the “hood.”  Overcoming disunity  requires a conscious effort to create “united front” structures which bring people together despite their differences in philosophy and approach.  Dr. Karenga has advocated “operational unity” as a concept to enable leaders and organizations with differing philosophies and approaches to work together.  Operational unity means focusing on issues and areas where there is agreement among organizations and leaders rather than disagreement.  Dr. Karenga calls this “unity without uniformity.” With so many problems/issues affecting the Black community, the goal of operational unity is to have leaders and organizations collaborate/act collectively around specific issues, projects and initiatives they agree on.

Unity in the Black community requires bridging the class divide.  Brothers and sisters who have seized on a pathway to the middle and upper class paved by the blood and sacrifice of heroes and sheroes of the Black freedom struggle have an obligation to spiritually and/or physically return to “Tobacco Road,” the urban inner-city neighborhoods of this country, to give back, to reinvest their time, talent and resources to reconstruct/revive the “dark ghettos” from which they escaped.

 The second Principle is Kujichagulia/Self-Determination.  There has been much talk about a “post-racial society” in the aftermath of the election of Barack Obama as America’s first African American president. And, there have always been some within the race who wanted to escape the “burden” of their Blackness.  The State of Emergency in Black America clearly suggests that “race still matters” as a determinant of one’s life chances in this country. Dr. Karenga has said that to chart a course toward full freedom, a theory/ideology of liberation must provide an “identity, purpose and direction.” I believe that if we are to permanently rise above the crises plaguing our families and communities, we must name and claim our identity, proudly embrace ourselves and be resolutely committed to being “of the race and for the race.”  As descendants from the African motherland, “we are an African people.” And, part of our mission in life should be to unapologetically work for the advancement of people of African descent in the U.S. and the Pan African world.  This does not mean disrespecting, disregarding or disdaining other racial/ethnic groups; it simply means “charity begins at home and spreads abroad,” and “love thy neighbor as thyself.”  We cannot, must not abandon the race, especially our sisters and brothers in the “hood,” in an ill conceived effort to become absorbed in a “colorblind” or “post racial society.”  We have a right to define who we are and determine our own destiny as people!

 The third Principle is Ujima/Collective Work and Responsibility.  As noted earlier, the Doctrine of Kawaida as conceived by Dr. Karenga is grounded in the traditional worldview and way of life of African people. As such it emphasizes “we, us and our” in terms of the values that are important to building and sustaining wholesome families and communities.  This is diametrically opposed to the “me, myself and I” values of “individualism” and “competition” stressed as central to the “cherished” American/western way of life.  The concept of the “collective” is frowned upon in America as “socialist” or communist.” And yet, the idea of extended families working together for a common purpose within communities with a sense of mutual obligation and responsibility is deeply ingrained in African societies – and our own experience as Africans in America, particularly in the South.  We certainly will not permit class or status to divide us if we see ourselves as one people committed to promoting the common good of the race. This is a clear example of the need to retain the values/principles of our forebears as opposed to adopting a value orientation which has proven to be destructive to Black families and communities.

 The fourth Principle is Ujamaa/Cooperative Economics.  This principle is closely linked to Ujima in that it encourages people of African descent to share resources and engage in joint efforts to build and sustain an economic foundation for our families and communities. Cooperatives, credit unions, investment clubs and community development corporations are examples of economic structures based on pooling and sharing resources for the common good.  Ujamaa does not preclude for-profit corporations or individual entrepreneurship. But, the value/principle of Ujamaa dictates that entrepreneurs and businesses explore ways of collaborating/cooperating, exchanging ideas and pooling resources where appropriate to enhance the collective economic empowerment of the Black community. This is what Dr. Claud Anderson has promoted through the concept of Powernomics and George Fraser through Power Networking.  In the spirit of Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, it is imperative that people of African descent persistently work to build an economic infrastructure to undergird our social and political institutions.

 The fifth Principle is Nia/Purpose. When we survey the incredible fratricide/carnage occurring in Black communities, largely committed by young Black males, one has the feeling that it may be because many of our young people lack a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives.  And, this may be related to a lack of collective purpose in the Black community as a whole. Gone are the days of the civil rights/human rights and Black Power movements when there was a pervasive spirit of purpose in the air. There was a dynamic movement and a feeling that Black people were on the move! In the face of a daunting State of Emergency, we urgently need to restore a sense of purpose in Black America. And, that purpose should be a commitment to reclaim and rebuild our communities, a fervent determination that America’s desolate dark ghettos will become new communities that are bright beacons of hope and possibility. The collective conviction/purpose and the struggle required to rebuild our communities will be contagious; it will capture the hearts and minds of our youth/young people by restoring a sense of mission to their lives as part of a people fighting to liberate themselves from an oppressive value system and society.

The Sixth Principle is Kuumba/Creativity.  People of African descent gave the world its first multi-genius in the person of Imhotep, the Egyptian physician, architect and engineer who mastered the science of building in stone that led to the erection of the pyramids as one of the greatest wonders of the world! One might say that creativity is in our DNA.  Africans from the Caribbean took old barrels and transformed them into “steel drums” that produce amazing music.  Those of us who came up on the “rough side of the mountain” in America (most of us) bear witness to the fact that our mothers and fathers were masters of “making something out of nothing.”  They had to in order to survive.  Overcoming the State of Emergency to rebuild our families and communities is a formidable undertaking.  It will not be easy, but we should act with the absolute confidence that we possess the creativity, the knowledge, skill and will to meet the challenge.

 The Seventh and final Principle is Imani/Faith.  Given the obstacles our forebears faced, they had to have an abiding faith that survival was possible, that beyond the brutality, hardships, suffering and sacrifice of the moment, “joy would come in the morning,” that someday, a generation that sprang from their loins – sons, daughters, grandchildren, great grandchildren, great, great grandchildren … would be able to proclaim “free at last.” For millions it was the belief that “we’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord.” For others it was a spiritual force deep down inside that could be tapped to carry forth for another day and another day … the faith that a better day was coming for the sons and daughters of Africa in America. In this current crisis, we too must have faith, a belief that enables us to scale heights, not normally possible, because we believe and act on our beliefs. Similar to the Principle of Kuumba/Creativity, we must have faith that there are no odds too great for a people to overcome if we act with Umoja/Unity, Kujichagulia/Self-Determination, Ujima/Collective Work and Responsibility, Ujamaa/Cooperative Economics, Nia/Purpose, Kuumba/Creativity, and Imani/Faith.  “Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day!”

– See more at: http://ibw21.org/vantage-point/the-nguzo-saba-and-kwanzaa-in-a-time-of-crisis/#sthash.gap6irva.dpuf


Plan for Economic Sanctions Against Florida Dr. Ron Daniels

Dr. Ron Daniels Gives a Plan for Economic Sanctions Against Florida

 July 26, 2013.


by Dr. Ron Daniels

In a recent article I called for economic sanctions against Florida to compel business and political leaders in that state to change the “Stand Your Ground Law” which provided the basis for the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin. There are times when there is a convergence of ideas, a meeting of minds, such that a particular strategy has the potential to galvanize a movement to achieve a major victory. It appears that such a convergence of ideas has occurred around at least one strategy to translate the anger and frustration over the Zimmerman verdict into justice in the Trayvon Martin tragedy – Economic Sanctions/Boycott Florida. The idea is not a Ron Daniels idea or Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) call but one that is on the minds of Black people all across the country.

Dr. Patricia Newton, President Emeritus, National Association of Black Psychiatrists was so outraged by the Zimmerman verdict that she cancelled a $1 million dollar contract she was about to sign for a conference in Florida. When I asked an elderly Black professional couple I met at Penn Station in Baltimore [who were returning from a conference in Jacksonville, Florida] whether they would be going back to Florida next year… Before I could get the words out of my mouth, the wife defiantly proclaimed that they discussed the murder of Trayvon Martin at the conference and had already resolved that they would not hold another convention in that state until there is justice in this case! Then music legend Stevie Wonder issued a statement at a concert in Canada proclaiming “until the Stand Your Ground Law is abolished, I will never perform there again.” Since his pronouncement Eddie LaVert, Stephanie Mills, Dionne Warwick and Mary Mary are among the artists who have publicly come out saying they will not perform in Florida until this abhorrent law has changed. While celebrities like Stevie Wonder provide credibility for the Boycott, it will be the actions of the multitude of conscious/committed convention goers, vacationers and consumers that will make the campaign effective. Economic sanctions against Florida is an idea whose time has come.

Just as Katrina ripped the scab off and exposed the raw naked structural/institutional racism in distressed Black neighborhoods in America like those in New Orleans, the murder of Trayvon Martin has ripped the scab off the persistent phenomenon of the criminalization of young Black men, racial profiling, stop-and-frisk and the structural/institutional racism in America’s criminal justice system. The problem is that despite episodic protests and periodic mobilizations, there has not been a persistent sense of urgency in Black America about these issues. The murder of Trayvon Martin may be a decisive turning point.

One week after the Zimmerman verdict, rallies and prayer vigils were held across the country to demand that the Justice Department bring criminal charges against George Zimmerman for violating Trayvon Martin’s civil rights. While we agree that this is a righteous strategy, there is a high probability that the Justice Department will not find sufficient racial animus in the proceedings to justify bringing charges. However, even if the Justice Department does find sufficient cause to bring charges, I contend that the economic sanctions/boycott Florida campaign is necessary.

At the end of the day, not only must we seek a conviction of Zimmerman, we must also indict and fight to change the law that is so flawed that it would permit an armed adult to pursue an unarmed teenager deemed “suspicious” and permit a grown man to kill a kid who fearfully sought to stand his ground against a menacing stranger. Fighting to change this flawed law is about justice for Trayvon Martin, but it is also about all of the Trayvons in the state of Florida and across the nation who are victims of criminalization and racial profiling. It is about Black people consciously and collectively standing our ground against the attacks on the gains of the civil rights/human rights/Black power movements, the abandonment and disinvestment in distressed Black communities and the daily indignities we have quietly suffered for far too long. In his last speech the night before he was assassinated in Memphis, Dr. Martin Luther King urged Black people to use boycotts to achieve justice. He said, “now we must kind of redistribute the pain.” As IBW said in its Press Release on this issue, “Blacks and all people of conscience and good will should inflict some non-violent pain on the state of Florida and keep inflicting it until business leaders and the politicians scream for help and plead for the economic sanctions to be lifted.” But, to achieve our goal we need a targeted (not scattered/shotgun) approach to succeed.

The major component of the campaign should be to shut off tourism to Florida. This means Black organizations should not schedule conferences/conventions in that state until the law is changed. Groups that have already scheduled conferences six months to a year out should seek to cancel the agreements and notify the venues that Black people no longer feel safe to travel to Florida, particularly with their sons. An option is to hold conferences/conventions at a Black College/University or Black owned retreat centers. In the event that your conference is already scheduled in the next few months, resolve to spend as little money/cash in the state as possible. This campaign requires that kind of discipline.

Do not schedule a vacation in Florida until victory is won. Do not travel to an amusement park in the “tragic kingdom” or golf tournament until victory is won. At the NAACP Convention, Martin Luther King III urged the delegates not to buy Florida orange juice. In conversations with Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference and George Fraser, President/CEO, FraserNet, they advised that refusing to buy Florida orange juice is an excellent way to “democratize” the economic sanctions/Boycott Florida campaign by creating an avenue for ordinary people everywhere to participate in the effort whether they had planned to travel to Florida or not. So, here’s a set of marching orders:

•             No Conferences/Conventions

•             No Vacations

•             No Amusement Parks or Golf Tournaments

•             No Florida Orange Juice

We also hope the major civil rights leaders will embrace this righteous campaign and mobilize their constituents to actively support it. The people are ready and the train is already leaving the station. IBW has posted a petition on its website http://www.ibw21.org where organizations, leaders and individuals can Sign a Pledge to Boycott Florida. Finally, while this campaign is spearheaded by Black people, we obviously appeal to and welcome the support of our friends and allies of all races and ethnicities who believe that “an injury to one is an injury to all,” that “an injustice anywhere to anyone is an injustice to everyone everywhere.” Economic sanctions against Florida is an idea whose time has come!

Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website http://www.ibw21.org and http://www.northstarnews.com. To send a message, arrange media interviews or speaking engagements, Dr. Daniels can be reached via email at info@ibw21.org