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Community needs a history lesson

Ashanti Kafi, Kandi Milton

May 27, 2024

I was listening to renown Detroit historian Jamon Jordan as he spoke to us last October 2023.  He spoke of a time when Black Leaders and Black People understood what a community should be. What he shared made me wonder if being of service to others does not have the same resonance today as it did with our ancestors. To lend a helping hand to  our neighbor or give money to a local cause whose mission is to help others is not as common as it once was. Today, we often think, what's in it for me? As I answer the question from a traditional African perspective - because that is my vantage point - the answer to that question is, everything! 

On the other hand if I were answering the question from the perspective of the founders of this country, the answer may be "go for self". The founders of our country - of our social and economic systems - created a doctrine at its start to define what this country would become as it shaped its cultural norms.  One can easily argue that The Declaration of Independence was written from one Natural Law; the law of self-interest - people work for their own good.

I am certain that you know the adage, the freedoms and rights granted under the constitution were not intended for everyone.  In fact when the authors who wrote, “all men are created equal’, intentionally refers to white men with the exclusion of all else.  Freedom was not for women, or the poor, or Africans or Indigenous people. Freedom as defined on July 4th, 1776, was for white men. It was created by men who had a mind, the will and the means to impose their ideals of freedom. It was not the will of every person of the 13 colonies to withdraw from Great Britain. A small group of people decided for us all. It could be argued that they were working for their own good. 

While throughout history white men have moved in their own selfish interest, in the 50’s and 60’s there was a movement to help Black people understand the importance of galvanizing around our collective self interest. In the 1960's The Shrine of the Black Madonna, under the leadership of its founder Rev Albert B. Cleage (Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman) and several other Black led organizations began to  demonstrate to the world  that we have the  will and the means to  define ourselves, our struggle and our path to liberation.  We succinctly define it as Self Determination. We wrote our own declarations of independence. We built social and economic institutions, a programmatic structure to change the mindset and condition of Black people.  It was initiated as a movement intended to include all black people. Not just the educated or the wealthy, or just those here or those abroad -  but all Black people. We partnered with other organizations and leaders to spread the message of Ubuntu - 'I am because you are'. We were and still are, focused on Group dynamics and Cohesion.  We did this because it is the right thing to do. Because we are not free until all Black people everywhere are  free. 

Our Ancestors knew that community means sharing and sharing means serving. Don't be fooled by those who say "go for self" or "I gotta get mine so you gotta get yours”. When we give, we receive. That is why serving others has everything to do with you, because what you give, what you share, comes back. The law of reciprocity.

Let us return to the ways of our elders, of our ancestors, of our African culture. Where community is most important. Where we work for the good of us all.

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