YRAACC 3rd BHM Panelist – Tracy Stuart

The following are responses from Tracy Stuart, a principal in the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB). She was a panelist during the York Region Alliance of African Canadian Communities (YRAACC) third annual Black History Month (BHM) event. We thank Tracy for participating in our panel discussion.

1 You are all successful in your respective vocations and careers. In your personal pathway to success, what would you identify as important “Building Blocks” applicable to a stronger Black community?

Firstly – Having your faith. Relying on God provides you with hope, strength and also discernment in the direction of life. “He will not provide you with more than you can handle” (1 Corinthians:13).

Secondly – There is a concept of having a “growth mindset”- which is having the confidence in yourself that you can and will succeed. For the times you experience, closed doors, missed opportunities, injustice, failure, that does not mean you give up but persevere.

Thirdly, being among like-minded individuals and sticking together. This provides opportunities to network, pool resources, be encouraged and have a stronger sense of community. I commend YRAAC’s grassroots initiatives

Fourthly, have a mentor/guide-having a person you can turn too for questions, guidance and reflection, sharing best practices, resources.

Lastly, forming strategic alliances with others-networking, ** build capital** pooling together resources and info to help provide to youth for career and educational path

2. We hear from many of our youth that they face many barriers to success, including but not limited to Anti-Black Racism. You would have faced some similar barriers, what were they, and how did you overcome them?

Story- One that stands out most for me was in high school and I was unsure of my career pathway goals for after high school. Being confused and uncertain, I did seek counsel from my guidance counselor at the time, my math marks were average and I did want take a path in medicine, he advised me to take courses that “did not require me to work so hard” and that pursuing a career in medicine would take me too long” – that discouraged me and it actually made me think that here is a person with counsel expertise provided me with advice that did not direct me to my goal but rather was changing it. With that being said, falling back to my building blocks (faith, perseverance, speaking with friends, family, (my supportive network), I knew not to follow the advice that was given to me because if i did, I may not be where I am today.

3. Did Mentoring play an important role in your life? Who was your mentor and what difference did that person make? describe the relevance of such interactions on the wellbeing of the next generation?

Absolutely-both personally and professionally. Having a West Indian family, there is usual a matriarch. That would be my grandmother who left Jamaica with literally the clothes on her back to come to Canada to work as a domestic. She saw an ad in the paper and took a risk leaving her country to come to one that was unknown. She sacrificed things for herself so she could send money for her children, my mom back home. Her experiences/stories always remind me that despite the struggles she encountered, she always pressed forward, continued to work hard despite the outcome, and I draw on that for my own strength.

Professionally, it was my former principal, who helped me navigate to the role of being an administrator myself. When I did not have the confidence in myself that I should pursue forward, her encouragement, guidance and support was influential to me. The experience of being a mentor myself was also instrumental. While being one of the many leaders of the MACCA Saturday program, that developed leadership and upliftment for myself. That program was not only for academic support, but it helped our black youth develop their own life and resilience skills as well. I highly encourage, if you can be a mentor for others to do so.

4 In York Region, what resources do we lack as a community that prevents us from effectively and optimally partnering with our Public Service Institutions and Agencies?

Where is the reflection of our community in the community? When you go to the community centres, Camps, look in schools, hospitals, look at those working around the city/town, where is the black community in these public service institutions.

-need to look at employment hiring practices, a plan for our youth to have a career/pathway navigation to help them be hired and more visible in these public sector positions. This will elevate to positions of authority to help change policy, systematic barriers and bring about change.

what resources are being set up to navigate our youth to obtain these positions

Additional talking points

  • Not seeking out what is available-scholarship opportunities, tutoring/mentor services
  • Getting involved with other organizations, i.e., Apple technology, STEM-Coding
  • Look at data- how many students are failing, attendance records
  • Strength in unity- coming together to have a more powerful voice

BUILDING A STRONGER BLACK COMMUNITY ( BHM EVENT)

The York Region Alliance of African Canadian Communities (YRAACC) invites you to celebrate with us at our third annual Black History Month event on February 15, 2020, between 11 am and 4 pm, at Richmond Green Secondary School, 1 William F. Bell Pkwy, Richmond Hill, ON L4S 2T9. The event is free, and we request that you register at:

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/york-region-aacc-2020-black-history-month-event-tickets-88303306567

Our theme this year is “Unifying and Supporting the Next Generation”. We firmly believe in the importance of nurturing our youth as they represent the future of our community. For those of you who have young family members, we have a Children’s Area.

We encourage you to listen to our keynote speaker Clayton Latouche, Associate Director at the York Region District School Board (YRDSB). Also, please come and participate, we will have a panel discussion with a group of inspiring influencer, support our black-owned marketplace and enjoy performances from our visiting artists.

Finally, we will be celebrating the first anniversary of our Sankofa Mentoring Program Students. This program relates to our second theme, “Providing Mentorship to Black Youth.”

We hope you will be able to join us.

To learn more about York Region Alliance of African Canadian Communities (YRAACC) or the Sankofa Mentoring Program, please visit www.yorkregionaacc.ca or email info@yorkregionaacc.ca

Changing the child welfare system for African Canadian’s

Making strides…One Vision One Voice – Changing the child welfare system for African Canadian’s .

Kike Ojo, Project Manager, One Vision One Voice, Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies talks about the impact the “One Vision One Voice” project has made on Ontario’s child welfare sector.
Systems are not neutral. Like other Canadian institutions, child welfare agencies have evolved within an historical context of white supremacy, colonialism, and anti-Black racism, all of which have been woven into the fabric of child welfare policies and practices.

Whether it is the teacher that scrutinizes a Black child’s lunch and calls a Children’s Aid Society because she feels it is not adequate, or the Black family who has their children apprehended over an incident that would not result in the removal of white children, we know Black families are treated differently within the system. This has led to the creation of long-standing disproportionalities and disparities for African Canadian communities.

The success of African Canadian families despite this context is a testament to the resilience of communities, but the fact remains that our community is in crisis. There are too many of our children in the care of CAS’ across the province.

We have known this for decades and for decades many community leaders have fought, pushed and advocated for inquiries, for change….for our future.

In 2015, the government finally heard those voices and provided funding for a project to investigate the overrepresentation of Black children in care and disparities in outcomes that our families face. That project launched its report in 2016 and came to be called One Vision One Voice – a Practice Framework, which includes 11 Race Equity Practices (Recommendations for each Children’s Aid Society across the province to follow, to eliminate disparity and overrepresentation of African Canadians).

Phase II of One Vision One Voice was officially launched in January 2018. While the first phase of the project was about understanding the issues, gathering information from the community and presenting it back to the province of Ontario, Phase II has been about building a foundation for real and lasting change within the child welfare sector so that we can stop our families from being torn apart.

Over the past year, we have worked hard to ensure that the Race Equity Practices outlined in the One Vision One Voice report are taken up by Children’s Aid Societies across the province.

So what does this mean for Black families?

It means the way Children’s Aid Societies work with you should change.

It means racial and cultural matching of children in care, so Black children aren’t isolated in White homes.

It means working with CASs across the province to collect identify based data- so we know exactly how many African Canadian children are in care, where they are located and how they are being served.

It means establishing a place for Black families and community organizations to get help navigating the child welfare system through our Community Engagement Worker positions.

It means creating an anti-Black racism needs assessment, which all CAS’ were asked to complete and which will provide us with important evidence that will help us build a plan to combat anti-Black racism for each individual agency.

More than anything it means accountability to you.

o One Vision One Voice recommends that each CAS across the province should have some sort of connection with their African Canadian community, through an African Canadian Local Advisory Council. This council will help advise policies and help CAS’ manage relationships with the local community.
o We developed a Provincial Advisory Council, made up of African Canadian community members across the province, to work with the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies and keep societies accountable provincially
o Throughout 2017 and 2018 CAS across the province have participated in anti-Black racism training
o We held the first gathering for Black Youth in care, Power Up! 2018, which brought over 130 Black youth in foster care and group homes from across the province together for the first time
o We held the first African Canadian Child Welfare Staff Symposium, All In, which brought together 320 Black staff from across the province.

When you are in the midst of a crisis, it can often feel like people are standing still…. but we want you to know that One Vision One Voice has not been standing still.

With the faith and trust of the community and with the guidance of our African Canadian Provincial Advisory Council and African Canadian sector leaders, the One Vision One Voice team has worked hard over the past number of years to make changes that will last.

Phase II of the project officially ends March 31st 2019. We don’t know what the future holds for the project, but we know the work must continue in the community. It is important that you don’t stop pushing and advocating.

Call your local CAS and find out what their plan is to combat the overrepresentation of African Canadian children and families in the child welfare system, in Ontario.
And you can always reach out to us. We want to hear from you. onevisiononevoice@oacas.org

Sankofa Mentoring Program

   

                                   Sankofa Mentoring Program

                                        York Region African Canadian Rites of Passage
      “Bridging the Past with the Present …Navigating the Present into the Future”

Summary of the Proposed Initiative:
The Sankofa Mentoring Initiative is a comprehensive three tier life-skills, civic responsibility, issue exploration curriculum-based-program that is rooted in an African-centered Rites of Passage process (The 7 Principles .. The Nguzo Saba)

1. Unity
2. Self-Determination
3. Collective Work and Responsibility
4. Cooperative Economics
5. Purpose
6. Creativity
7. Faith
*Plus) Self-Respect

Answering the following four Questions;
1. Who am I?
What values, history traditions and cultural precepts do I recognize, respect and continue.
2. How did I become who I am?
What Influence, events, people, experiences have shaped me?
3. Am I who I think I am?
To what extent do I understand, internalize, employ and reflect the cultural authenticity of my people? To what extent do I possess and self-consciously apply the enduring and permanent cultural standards and meaning which measure the “being” and becoming of Black people in terms of our cultural substance and concrete conditions?
4. What’s my life’s purpose?
Why am I here , and what is my life contribution to my family , my community , my African heritage, the world.

With the following programming components:

  • Mentoring in clusters, job-shadowing, community engagement projects, tutoring, a parent support group, and a multimedia training segment.
  • Retreats and excursions are seamless components of the initiative in order to further develop the African-centered rites of passage experience of all participants and mentors (e.g. their ethno-cultural, spiritual, mental, physical well-being) along with vital life changing lessons concerning environmental stewardship, along with civic, communal and socio-economic engagement.

Outcome Streams of the Initiative
1. Employment / entrepreneurship;
2. Educational achievement;
3. Civic engagement / leadership; and
4. Building a strong cultural identity.

Mission
The Sankofa Mentoring Initiative will foster and/or nurture positive youth outcomes in the areas of emotional well-being, social development, cultural awareness, health and safety, and education through mentoring, life-skills development, and tutoring, job-shadowing, civic involvement and project development.

Objectives:
• To promote positive social and emotional development through nurturing relationships between mentors and mentees.
• To enhance participants’ sense of self, self-confidence, enhance Self-efficacy and cultural heritage and ancestry through in depth life skills sessions, forums, discussions, activities, and excursions
• To promote matters of health and safety by exposing and addressing the dire consequences of delinquent/anti-social behaviours.
• To improve familial relationships by providing programming for parents/guardians/foster caregivers.
• To provide program participants with the means for self-expression and skill development through multimedia training (e.g. filming, scripting, editing, producing, and promoting a documentary from start to finish)
• To improve academic performance of youth/students enrolled in the program.
• To expose students to numerous and diverse career options through weekly career cluster workshops and field trips/job-shadowing opportunities.
• To engage youth in civic activities to promote their understanding of the local/global community that they are a part of, and inherit challenges we all face (e.g. environmental responsibility vs. economic development; socio-economic imbalances and the plight of the disadvantaged etc.).
* Engaging mentors and families to demonstrate that “It takes a village to raise a good child”

Targets:
The initiative will operate out of two locations; one in the City of Vaughan and the other in the City of Markham. Both cities along with Richmond Hill represents 80% of the African Canadian population within the region. In other words, the program will operate concurrently in two locations with the oversight of a program coordinator and a program facilitator. The program will target a minimum of 40 participants (20 at each location) each year to a maximum of 25.

Cross-sectorial collaboration:

The Sankofa Mentoring & Life-skills Initiative relies on the seamless cross sectorial collaboration between:
York Region Alliance of African Canadian Communities (YRAACC) the Lead Organization for
The Sankofa Mentoring Initiative relies on the seamless cross sectorial collaboration between:
1. York Region District School Board (YRDSB),
2. York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB),
3. York Region Children’s Aid Society (YRCAS),)
4. , 360 Kids and
5. Kinark Child and Family Services.
6. BFCN
7. York Regional Police ( ACCIN)

York Region Alliance of African Canadian Communities (YRAACC As the lead organization,) will provide stewardship over the financial, administrative and quality assurance elements of the project and all requirements and directives identified by the Ministry.

York Region Alliance of African Canadian Communities (YRAACC)
• Foster, lead, facilitate and oversee the visioning, development and administration of all aspects of the Sankofa Mentoring & Life-skills Initiative in close consultation/collaboration with youth in particular and all stakeholders in general.
• Facilitate and oversee the effectiveness of the Collective Impact and Cultural Identity (CI2) Approach
• Foster, sustain and lead the steering committee for the initiative (3-4 meetings per year for 3 years)
• Coordinate and oversee the development and delivery of all aspects of the initiative
• Foster, coordinate and oversee the research and evaluation process of the initiative
• Be inclusive of and responsive to all stakeholders—especially the voices of youth and parents
• Oversee the development, collection and analysis of agreed upon/shared indicators of success in order to measure the progress of the initiative towards enhancing the project and its expected outcomes/impact.
• Provide non-identifying information (data) as it concerns the agreed upon/shared indicators of success as identified by all partners

York Region District School Board (YRDSB) will provide the expertize of its senior research staff to research and evaluate the initiative by actively tracking its progress and apply all imparted learning in real time with regards to:
• The impact of the initiative on the outcomes for Black children, youth and their families; and
• The effectiveness of the Collective Impact and Cultural Identity (CI2) Approach.
• A Steering Committee member for the initiative (3-4 meetings per year for 3 years)
• A referral source to the life-skills mentoring program (refer youth to the program who would benefit from it)
• Provide administrative support (e.g. IT support, AV support, data collection and analysis)
• Provide space for the program to convene (20-25 youth once per week)
• Provide Job-shadowing opportunities for youth
• Participate in the development, collection and analysis of agreed upon/shared indicators of success in order to measure the progress of the initiative towards enhancing the project and its expected outcomes/impact.
• Provide non-identifying information (data) as it concerns the agreed upon/shared indicators of success as identified by all partners

York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB)
• Steering Committee member for the initiative (3-4 meetings per year for 3 years)
• A referral source to the life-skills mentoring program (refer youth to the program who would benefit from it)
• Provide administrative support (e.g. IT support, AV support, data collection and analysis)
• Provide space for the program to convene (20-25 youth once per week)
• Provide Job-shadowing opportunities for youth
• Participate in the development, collection and analysis of agreed upon/shared indicators of success in order to measure the progress of the initiative towards enhancing the project and its expected outcomes/impact
• Provide non-identifying information (data) as it concerns the agreed upon/shared indicators of success as identified by all partners

York Region Children’s Aid Society (YRCAS)
• A referral source to the life-skills mentoring program (refer youth to the program who would benefit from it)
• If required, provide space for the program to convene (20-25 youth once per week)

Black Foundation of Community Networks (BFCN)
• Steering Committee member for the initiative (3-4 meetings per year for 3 years)
• A referral source to the life-skills mentoring program (refer youth to the program who would benefit from it)
• Provide tutoring services and support for program participants
• Participate in the development, collection and analysis of agreed upon/shared indicators of success in order to measure the progress of the initiative towards enhancing the project and its expected outcomes/impact.
• Provide non-identifying information (data) as it concerns the agreed upon/shared indicators of success as identified by all partners

360 Kids
• Steering Committee member for the initiative (3-4 meetings per year for 3 years)
• A referral source to the life-skills mentoring program (refer youth to the program who would benefit from it)
• Deliver life-skills workshops (e.g. pre-employment workshops, financial literacy workshops, multimedia workshops, etc.)
• Provide remedial support for youth in the program (e.g. anger management counselling, housing, etc…)
• Provide access to your recreational facilitates (e.g. music studio, basketball court, etc…)
• Participate in the development, collection and analysis of agreed upon/shared indicators of success in order to measure the progress of the initiative towards enhancing the project and its expected outcomes/impact.
• Provide non-identifying information (data) as it concerns the agreed upon/shared indicators of success as identified by all partners

York Regional Police:
• A Steering Committee member for the initiative (3-4 meetings per year for 3 years)
• Refer and/or encourage YRP members, who are a part of the ACC / ISN, to be mentors within the program.
• A referral source to the life-skills mentoring program (refer youth to the program who would benefit from it)
• Deliver life-skills workshops (e.g. community safety, emergency response methods (e.g. CPR, First Aid, etc.) etc.)
• Provide some form of administrative support or counsel (e.g. IT support, AV support, data collection or analysis, etc.)
• Provide Job-shadowing opportunities for youth, such as tours of your facilities and where possible, administrative job-shadowing opportunities (e.g. shadowing an IT or AV personal, an accountant, a graphic designer, etc.)
• Participate in the development, collection and analysis of agreed upon/shared indicators of success in order to measure the progress of the initiative towards enhancing the project and its expected outcomes/impact.

Kinark Child and Family Services
• Steering Committee member for the initiative (3-4 meetings per year for 3 years)
• A referral source to the life-skills mentoring program (refer youth to the program who would benefit from it)
Assist with the provision of services and supports for youth with complex needs and their families (e.g. youth mental health, youth justices:

Evaluation:
Logical Framework
Inputs Outputs Outcomes Impact
1) 40 Youth paired with mentors 16 mentors (2 mentors per cluster of 5 youth) Positive relationships developed Trusted confidant, advisor &
values coach
Personal goal setting Positive
Development
2) Cultural identity awareness program Ancestral roots and history
understood
Equipped with new empowering story
Self-discovery
Cultural identity and community connection
3). Anti-social behavior prevention workshops and
presentations Adaptation to social mores Civil society connection
4) Positive parenting training sessions Improved parent/child
relationships
Confident parental interaction with public services eg. CAS, Board of Ed. Strengthened families
5) Multi-media theory and practical training course Work ethic and discipline developed
Marketable skill acquired Improved employment prospects
6)Homework clubs and subject specific academic improvement assistance Improved academic performance in school Post-secondary prospect
7) Career counseling and training including job shadowing experience Understanding of career requirements Career path and strategy developed
8) Civic s studies including, environment,
economics and social issues
Deeper understanding of local & global issues Socially engaged citizens
Indicators Indicators Data sources
1) Mentors recruited, 1) positive development in Mentor application
Assessed, and screened. Mentees paired with mentors
2) # sessions held
‘Seven principles’ learned
3) # sessions with counselors, legal experts
and law enforcement officers
4) # Training sessions for parents held
5) # hours of training completed
Assigned media project successfully completed
6) # hours spent with volunteer educators
7) # workshops held, field trips and job shadowing sessions arranged mentees, emulating positive traits in mentor
2) Self-respect and self confidence
3) Demonstrated positive change in attitude and behavior
4) More active involvement in child’s education and social wellbeing
5) Ability to complete a documentary from start to finish
6) High school graduation
7) Career path and strategy developed
8) Mature civic minded person interviews and
screening

Progress reports

Attendance records

School reports

Measurements  of all participants, start, midway, and end
of program

Participant surveys

YORK REGION ALLIANCE OF AFRICAN CANADIAN COMMUNITIES
www.yorkregionaacc.ca Email: info@yorkregionaacc.ca
Mailing Address:
1070 Major Mackenzie Dr. Richmond Hill Ontario PO Box 5042 L4S 0B7

Imani ( Faith)

The last day of Kwanzaa Faith (IMANI) is the first day of the new year, January 1. Historically this has been for African people a time of sober assessment of things done and things to do, of self-reflection and reflection on the life and future of the people and of recommitment to their highest cultural values in a special way. Following in this tradition, it is for us then a time to ask and answer soberly and humbly three questions: Who am I; am I really who I say I am; and am I all I ought to be? And it is, of necessity, a time to recommit ourselves to our highest ideals, in a word, to the best of what it means to be both African and human in the fullest sense.

This Day of Assessment or Day of Meditation is a day we engage in quiet reflection. “The idea on this (day) is to maintain a quiet, humble and calm attitude with regard to oneself and towards one’s neighbors.” It is thus a good time for reassessment and recommitment on a personal and family level.

 

CREATIVITY The Kwanzaa Principle

THE PRINCIPLE OF CREATIVITY

( KUUMBA )

“TO DO ALWAYS AS MUCH AS WE CAN, IN THE WAY THAT WE CAN IN ORDER TO LEAVE OUR COMMUNITY MORE BEAUTIFUL AND BENEFICIAL THAN WE INHERITED IT”

The sixth principle is Kuumba (Creativity) and logically follows from and is required by the principle of Nia. It is a commitment to being creative within the context of the national community vocation of restoring our people to their traditional greatness and thus leaving our community more beneficial and beautiful than we, i.e., each generation, inherited it. The principle has both social and spiritual dimension and is deeply rooted both in social and sacred teachings of African societies.

CREATIVE RESTORATION
Nowhere is this principle more clearly expressed than in the literature and culture of ancient Egypt. Creativity here is both an original act of imitation of the creator and a restorative act, also, reflective of the Creator constantly pushing back the currents of chaos and decay and revitalizing and restoring the natural, spiritual and cosmic energy of the world. In ancient Egypt, there was a spiritual and ethical commitment and obligation to constantly renew and restore the great works, the legacy of the ancestors, and the creative energy of the leader and nation. This was considering doing Maat, I.E., reaffirming and restoring truth, justice and righteousness, harmony, balance, order, rightness, etc. Each pharaoh saw his or her reign, then, as one of restoration of Maat, i.e., the reaffirmation, reestablishment and renewal of the Good, the beautiful and the Right. This concept of restoration Maat includes the concept of serudj ta (restoring the world).
These concepts of restoration and progressive perfection which are key concepts in the philosophy of Kawaida and which reflected a fundamental cultural thrust of the 1960’s, informed the conception and development of Kwanzaa. And, of course, they became a goal and value of Kwanzaa in the principle of Kuumba (Creativity).

KWANZAA AS CREATIVE RESTORATION
It is of value to note that the creation of Kwanzaa falls within the restorative conception of creativity. Kwanzaa is a creative restoration in the spirit of cultural restoration and renewal in both the ancient African and African in the Diaspora  sense of the practice as used in the 1960’s.
It is, in fact, a restoring that which was in ruins or disuse in many parts of Africa, especially among Africans in America, and attempting to make more beautiful and beneficial than it was before as the principle of Kuumba (Creativity) requires. This as stated above, contains the interrelated principle of restoration and progressive perfection. To restore is what we call in the 60’s “to rescue and reconstruct.” Progressive perfection is a Kawaida concept that assumes and ability and obligation to strive always to leave what one inherits (legacy, community) more beautiful and beneficial than it was before. It is again, in this context and spirit of the cultural project of recovering and reconstructing African first-fruits celebrations that Kwanzaa was conceived and constructed.
The stress, then, is on leaving a legacy which builds on and enriches the legacy before you. It is again stress on generational responsibility. Kwanzaa reminds us of the ancient Egyptian teaching that if we wish to live for eternity we must build for eternity, i.e., do great works or serve the community in a real, sustained and meaningful way. This reflects both a social and moral criteria for eternal life and it is interesting to note that this discussion of great works and service surfaces in a discussion by Martin Luther King on Service. He said that all of us cannot build great works but we can serve and that in itself can lead to greatness.
Finally, Egyptian king Sesostris I taught that to do that which is of value is forever. A people called forth by its works do not die for their name is raised and remembered because of it. The lesson here is that creativity is central to the human spirit and human society; that it causes us to grow, restores and revitalizes us and the community and insures our life for eternity. And the Book of Kheti teaches that we should not underestimate the positive or negative, the creative or destructive effects of our thoughts and actions. For it says, “Everyday is a donation to eternity and even one hour is a contribution to the future.”

 

Paul Hill (NROPI)

Kwanzaa Principle PURPOSE

PURPOSE ( Nia ….nee-AH)

“To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.”

The fifth principle of the Nguzo Saba is PURPOSE (Nia)  which is essentially a commitment to the collective vocation of building, developing and defending our national community, its culture and history in order to regain our historical initiative and greatness as a people. The assumption here is that our role in human history has been and remains a key one, that we as an African people share in the grand human legacy Africa has given the world. That legacy is one of having not only been the fathers and mothers of humanity, but also the fathers and mothers of human civilization, i.e., having introduced in the Nile Valley civilizations the basic disciplines of human knowledge. It is this identity which gives us an overriding cultural purpose and suggests a direction. This is what we mean when we say we who are the father’s and mothers of human civilization have no business playing the cultural children of the world. The principle of Nia then makes us conscious of our purpose in light of our historical and cultural identity.

Inherent in this discussion of deriving purpose from cultural and historical identity is a necessary reference to and focus on generational responsibility. [Frantz] Fanon has posed this responsibility in competing terms. He says, “each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, [and then] fulfill it or betray it” (48). The mission he suggests is always framed within the larger context of the needs, hopes and aspirations of the people. And each of us is morally and culturally obligated to participate in creating a context of maximum freedom and development of the people.

Finally, Purpose (Nia) suggests that personal and social purpose are not only non-antagonistic but complementary in the true communitarian sense of the word. In fact, it suggests that the highest form of personal purpose is in the final analysis, social purpose, i.e., personal purpose that translates itself into a vocation and commitment which involves and benefits the community. As we have noted elsewhere, such a level and quality of purpose not only benefits the collective whole, but also gives fullness and meaning to a persons life in a way individualistic and isolated pursuits cannot.

For true greatness and growth never occur in isolation and at other’s expense. On the contrary, as African philosophy teaches, we are first and foremost social beings whose reality and relevance are rooted in the quality and the kinds of relations we have with each other. And a cooperative communal vocation is an excellent context and encouragement for quality social relations. Thus, [W.E.B.] Du Bois’ stress on education for social contribution and rejection of vulgar careerism rooted in the lone and passionate pursuit of money is especially relevant. For again our purpose is not to simply create money markers, but to cultivate men and women capable of social and human exchange on a larger more meaningful scale, men and women of culture and social conscience, of vision and values which expand the human project of freedom and development rather than diminish and deform it.
Practice Nia every day!

Paul Hill ….NROPI

Cooperative Economics (Ujama)

 

Cooperative Economics (Ujama)  (oo-JAH-mah)

“To build our own businesses, control the economics of our own community and share in all its work and wealth.”

The Fourth Principle is Cooperative Economics and is essentially a commitment to the practice of shared social wealth and the work necessary to achieve it. It grows out of the fundamental communal concept that social wealth belongs to the masses of people who created it and that no one should have such an unequal amount of wealth that it gives him/her the capacity to impose unequal, exploitative or oppressive relations on others (41). Sharing wealth is another form of communitarian exchange, i.e., sharing and cooperating in general. But it is essential because without the principle and practice of shared wealth, the social conditions for exploitation, oppression and inequality as well as deprivation and suffering are increased.

Thus, as former President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania in his discussion of Ujamaa said, Ujamaa is “based on the assumption of human equality, on the belief that it is wrong for one [person] to dominate or exploit another, and on the knowledge that every individual hopes to live in a society as a free [person] able to lead a decent life, in conditions of peace with his [her] neighbor” (42). Ujamaa, Nyerere tells us, is above all human centered – concerned foremost with the well-being, happiness and development of the human person. And the assumption is that the conditions for such well-being, happiness and development is best achieved in a context of shared social wealth.

Thus, President Nyerere stated, Ujamaa rejects the idea of wealth for wealth’s sake as opposed to well-being for all. And he notes that Ujamaa is “a commitment to the belief that there are more important things in life than the amassing of riches, and that if the pursuit of wealth clashes with things like human dignity and social equality, then the latter will be given priority.” In the context of improving and insuring the well-being of the people, “the creation of wealth is a good thing and something we shall have to increase.” But he concludes that “it will cease to be good the moment wealth ceases to serve (humans) and begins to be served by (humans)”.

Ujamaa also stresses self-reliance in the building strengthening and controlling of the economics of our own community. President Nyerere said self-reliance in Ujamaa means “first and foremost… that for our development we have to depend upon ourselves and our own resources” (43). The assumption here is that we must seize and maintain the initiative in all that is ours, and that we must harness our resources and put them to the best possible use in the service of the community. This, he says does not mean denying all assistance from or work with others but of controlling policy and shouldering the essential responsibility for our own future.

Closely related to this concept of self-reliance and the responsibility it requires is the respect for the dignity and obligation of work. To respect work is to appreciate its value, reject its exploitation and engage in it cooperatively for the common good of the community. Also, inherent in Ujamaa is the stress and obligation of generosity especially to the poor and vulnerable. In the Book of Ani, we are taught that generosity is its own reciprocal reward. “Small gifts return greater and what is replaced brings abundance” (44). And in the book of Ptah-Hotep we are taught “Be generous as long as you live. What goes into the storehouse should come out. For the bread is made to be shared.”

Moreover, Ptah-Hotep informs us, “Generosity is a memorial for those who show it, long after they have departed” (45). This of course, is the ancient African ethic of care and responsibility which informs the concepts of generosity and shared social wealth. Such an ethic is expressed in one of its earliest forms in the Book of Coming Forth by Day which defines the righteous on one level as one who has “given bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked and a boat to those without one” (46). In fact, throughout the sacred teachings of ancient Egypt in particular and Africa in general, the ethic of care and responsibility is expressed in the concept of shared social wealth and service to the most disadvantaged. This of course, finds its modern philosophical expression in our social thought and struggles, as a people, around and for social justice. And this struggle is not simply to be generous to the poor and vulnerable but ultimately to end their poverty and vulnerability, so that they too can live a decent, undeprived and meaningful life. For only in such a context will they be able to pursue the truly human without the limitation imposed by poverty, deprivation or the debilitating struggle for just life’s basic necessities. To share we lath and work, then, is to share concern, care and responsibility for a new, more human and fulfilling future.

Practice Ujamaa every day!

Paul Hill …NROPI

COLLECTIVE WORK AND RESPONSIBILITY (UJIMA )

COLLECTIVE WORK AND RESPONSIBILITY   (UJIMA )

“To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together”

The third principle is Collective Work and Responsibility (Ujima) which is commitment to active and informed togetherness on matters of common interests. It is also recognition and respect for the fact that without collective work and struggle, progress is impossible and liberation unthinkable. Moreover, 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 share our future with our own minds and hands and share its hardships and benefits together.
Ujima, as 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 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.

AFRICAN FREEDOM IS INDIVISIBLE
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 her or his humanity, all African people are also. 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, a real humanism begins with accepting one’s own humanity in the particular form in which it expresses itself and then initiating and sustaining 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.

ACTIVE COOPERATION
In the context of a communitarian social order, cooperation is another key aspect of Ujima. It is based on the assumption that what one does to benefit others is at the same time a benefit to him/her. Likewise, “one who injures others in the end injures him/herself” as the Yoruba proverb states. In the Lovedu community in South Africa, children are taught not to be aggressive or competitive but to be cooperative and share responsibility as a fundamental moral obligation. Even their language reflects the cooperative thrust. A child in asking for something says, “give me also,” even though s/he is the only one asking. For s/he is recognizing that s/he is not nor should s/he be the only one being given something. On the contrary, all things of value are to be shared as a common good. Likewise, the lovedu’s prayer is never just for oneself but for all of their health, blessings, and prosperity. In fact, to ask for personal without at the same time asking for the collective is both improper and immoral.
The lesson of the lovedu is that harmonious living is of paramount importance. Thus, being quarrelsome or contentious is one of the worst offenses. And striving for uncoerced or free and willing agreement is the model of behavior. Reconciliation of conflict is patient, never coercive, and is always done keeping the person in mind. The fundamental objective in conflict is not to mechanically apply the rule but to reconcile the people. For they believe that “if people do not agree, there can be no relationship.” And if they have to be coerced, there cannot be genuine agreement. In such context, collective work and responsibility is facilitated and sustained.
THE CHALLENGE OF CULTURE AND HISTORY
Finally, collective work and responsibility can be seen in terms of the challenge of culture and history. Work, both personal and collective, is truly at the center of history and culture. It is the fundamental activity by which we create ourselves, define and develop ourselves and confirm ourselves in the process as both persons and people. And it is the way we create culture and make history. It is for this reason, among others, that the Holocaust of Enslavement was so devastating. For not only did it destroy tens of millions of lives, which is morally monstrous in itself, but it also destroyed great cultural achievements, created technological and cultural arrest and thus eroded and limited human possibility Africa offered the world. In fact, the effects of this Holocaust are present even today both in terms of the problems of the African continent and those of the Diaspora.
The challenge of history and culture then is through collective work and responsibility to restore that which was damaged or destroyed and to raise up and reconstruct that which was in ruins as the ancient Egyptians taught. It is also to remember we are each cultural representatives of our people and have no right to misrepresent them or willfully do less than is demanded of us by our history and current situation as community-in-struggle. We must accept and live the principle of shared or collective work and responsibility in all things good, right and beneficial to the community.

Elder Paul Hill    NROP

Kwanzaa Principles “Self- Determination”

THE PRINCIPLE OF Self-Determination (KUJICHUGLIA)

To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves”

The second principle of the Nguzo Saba is Self-Determination (Kujichulia). This too express itself as both commitment and practice. It demands that we as African people define, defend and develop ourselves instead of allowing or encouraging others to do this.
It requires that we recover lost memory and once again shape our world in our own image and interest. And it is a call to recover and speak our own special cultural truth to the world and make our own unique contribution to the forward flow of human history.
DEFINING IDENTITY
The first act of a free people is to shape its world in its own image and interests. And it is a statement about their conception of self and their commitment to self-determination.
Kwaida, building on the teachings of Frantz Fanon, states that each person must ask him herself three basic questions: “Who Am I? Am I Really Who I Am? and Am I All I Ought To Be?” These are questions of personal identity. More profoundly they are questions of collective identity based on historic and cultural practice. And the essential quality of that practice must be the quality of self-determination.
To answer the question of “Who Am I?” is to have and employ a cultural criteria of authenticity, i.e., criteria of what is real and unreal, what is appearance and essence, what is culturally-rooted and foreign. And to answer the question of “Am I All I Ought To Be?” is to self-consciously possess and use ethical and cultural standards which measure women, men and children in terms of quality of their thought and practice in the context of who they are and must become, in both an African and human sense.
AFRICENTRIC THOUGHT AND PRACTICE
The principle of self-determination carries within it the assumption that we have both the right and responsibility to exist as a people and make our own unique contribution to the forward flow of human history. This principle shelters the assumption that as mothers and fathers of humanity and human civilization, we have no business playing the cultural children of the world. So it reminds us of the fact that African people introduced some of the basic disciplines of human knowledge—astronomy, geometry, literature, math, medicine, ethics, advanced architecture, etc. And it urges us as a people not to surrender our historic and cultural identity to fit into the culture of another. Openness to exchange is a given, but it presupposes that one has kept enough of one’s culture to engage in exchange, rather than slavishly follow another’s lead.
The principle and practice of self-determination expresses and supports the concept and practice of Africentricity. Africentricity is a quality of thought and practice which is rooted in the cultural image and human interests of African people. To say that a perspective or approach is in an African cultural image is to say it is supportive of the just claims African people have and share with other humans, i.e., freedom from want, toil and domination, and freedom to fully realize themselves in their African fullness.
Africentricity does not seek to deny freedom or deform others’ history and humanity, but to affirm, rescue, and reconstruct its own after the Holocaust of Enslavement and other forms of oppression. Africentricity at its cultural best is an ongoing quest for a historical and cultural anchor and a foundation on which we raise our cultural future, ground our cultural production and measure their authenticity and value.
Moreover, Africentricity is an on-going critical reconstruction directed toward restoring lost and missing parts of our historical self-formation or development as a people. It is furthermore a self-conscious posing of the African experience, both classical and general, as an instructive and useful paradigm for human liberation and a higher form of human life.
Africentricity, as the core and fundamental quality of our self-determination, reaffirms our right and responsibility to exist as a people, to speak our own special truth to the world and to make our own contribution to the forward flow of human history. To do the opposite is immoral; to do less is dishonorable and ultimately self-destructive.

Paul Hill … NROPI