“We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.” -Maya Angelou
Don’t allow yourself to feel like a failure as this year comes to a close. Don’t allow yourself to play the victim. Don’t allow yourself to give up on your dreams, goals, or aspirations. Don’t allow yourself to feel alone.
This year handed me many losses, devastating heartbreak, ugly truths, spiritual, emotional and physical assault, instability, frustration, constant reminders of mortality, and feelings of inadequacy as a leader and as a servant of the community.
I stumbled into the final month of this trying year feeling depleted, but determined to persevere, even if it meant continuing to run on empty. Now, I am approaching the end of 2016, and have come upon the 4th day of Kwanzaa, which demands that I reflect upon Ujamaa, what it means, and how we can apply the principle of cooperative economics to our everyday lives. We often talk about supporting Black business. We think of sharing resources and wealth in terms of empowering our community financially, utilizing the Black dollar, or uplifting one another through gifts of material value. But we must ask ourselves what resource is most missing from our communities. We must ask ourselves what type of capital we most need. I have asked myself this question in pursuit of solutions to the problem that is our failure to practice cooperative economics and have come up with what I believe is an honest and profound answer…..We are most in need of spiritual capital. We are most in need of love. We are most in need of a connection, the absence of which impedes our ability to truly unite, to truly live with and through one another, to protect and serve one another, to overcome our oppression. This is especially apparent to me now; as I am witnessing how, thanks to the spirit of my ancestors, what was a moment of despair has transformed into a moment of strength, a moment of inspiration, a moment of clarity, a moment of assurance, a moment of confidence, a moment of profound love, joy, happiness and peace.
“Every dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” - Harriet Tubman
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not the only African, stuck in the nightmare that is America, with a dream. On the contrary, there were many greats in his company. My goal in practicing cooperative economics, is to allow those ancestors who shared dreams of freedom, liberation, and revolution, particularly those who identified as women, to possess my spirit, to inhabit my mind and my heart so that I may move forward with the same courage, the same strength the same conviction that they did. I also hope that the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual wealth that I accumulate during my journey are resources that will be accepted as contributions to the Black ethereal economy just as, if not more, readily than my man-made dollar would be accepted by a Black business.
To those who scoff at these ideas, I agree that Black people need real, tangible, palpable resources. I agree that we need actual, perceptible results. But, if we look around and even look within ourselves, we’ll find proof that we can not claim any material resources as a people, that we can not experience said results, that our dreams and ideas will not come to fruition until we get right with ourselves and find a way to channel the spirits and honor the intent of those who came before us. We must first know ourselves through study of our history, through self reflection, through thorough exploration and unconditional love, before we can truly serve our own interests.
In one of the most testing periods of my life thus far, I have found sustenance in the power of the Queens who precede me. I have found peace in the realization that the great Nzinga probably felt compromised when she acquiesced to Portuguese demands that she convert to Christianity, that the inspirational Sojourner Truth must have felt lower than low when she was sold at auction with a flock of sheep for one hundred dollars, that she must have experienced pain deeper than most of us know when the man she loved was beaten to death for loving her, that Fannie Lou Hamer must have felt beyond violated when a hysterectomy was forced upon her by a white doctor, robbing her of her ability to have children and challenging her ideas about her own womanhood and identity, that Assata Shakur must have experienced some fear when she was imprisoned, that she must have felt great panic when she gave birth to her daughter during her murder trial, and great loss when she had to leave that daughter behind to protect both of their lives. I know that my own mother has felt stressed, stretched, pained, unappreciated, and even unseen as she has carried our family on her back, like the superwoman that she is.
I can feel the depth of the pain, of the sorrow, and of the trauma that my ancestors and elders have experienced. But more than that, I can feel the magnitude of their strength, the clarity of their purpose, and the significance of the path that they’ve laid out for me to follow. Queen Nzinga may have compromised, but she went on to lead her people in a thirty year struggle against the Portuguese; one that indirectly inspired Angolan independence. She may have lost some battles, but her self assurance and confidence in her own divinity have become legendary. Sojourner may have lost her partner, her lover, and her friend but she still went on to claim her freedom; walking off the plantation, rather than running because that’s how entitled to liberty she rightfully felt. Fannie Lou may have been forced to drop out of school top pick cotton. She may have been involuntarily sterilized. She may have been beaten within an inch of her life, but she didn’t allow any of those experiences to deter her from mobilizing Black voters and organizing registration in Mississippi, a state known for its bigotry and oppression. Assata Shakur may have had to sacrifice everything she held dear, but she was fearless in the literal battles she fought against corrupt law enforcement, against poisoned and prejudiced government, and against white supremacy. My mother may experience hardship, but she faces every day with a smile so bright and so brave, it puts the sun to shame. The example these women have set for me, the courageous and loving spirit they have bequeathed me are the most valuable resources they could have shared. Their dreams live on within us and there is nothing more precious than that.
“A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.” - Maya Angelou
I am slapped to my senses by my study; shaken awake by history’s lessons. I will not engage in self pity. I will not focus on what hasn’t happened, but on what will come to pass. I reject thoughts centered around disappointment, failure, or rejection and instead set my sights on all that I know I am meant to accomplish, all that I know is destined to occur. I will cease to feed on mental, emotional, or spiritual poison and instead become drunk on the joy that the lives and sacrifices of others have afforded me. I will lay every good feeling, every ounce of ecstasy, every molecule of confidence at the feet of those that I was meant to love, serve and protect. And in doing so, I will responsibly, productively, and happily engage in the emotional marketplace; in the spiritual economy that most requires stimulation.
I love you.
“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”- Fannie Lou Hamer