How 2020 Reinforced Ujima: We are responsible for and accountable to one another

The first time I celebrated Kwanzaa I was in college and, as the freshman representative for the Black Student Union, I was responsible for organizing a campus-wide event. This first celebration was also my last. This year is different, though, and I find myself being drawn to celebrate Kwanzaa once again. When I reflect on the Nguzo Saba, Ujima, in particular, I understand why.  Ujima (collective work and responsibility) reflects that we are responsible for and accountable to one another. 

The reality of our inter-connectedness has been particularly salient this year. The failure of some to follow social distancing guidelines and wear masks has resulted in a prolonged battle with Covid-19, disproportionately affecting Black and brown communities. The recent deaths of Black people at the hands of the police have galvanized diverse protests and sparked racial unity. However, the presence of “Black Lives Matter” signs on neighborhood lawns cannot erase the fact that over 74 million of our fellow citizens supported an openly racist and misogynistic President in the recent election.  

All of this is occurring when many of the coping tools we would normally utilize are unavailable. Churches are closed; gyms shuttered; and entertainment venues are shut down. We have had to stay home, be absent from our loved ones, and literally hide our faces in public. Smiles are lost, hugs have become virtual, and gentle touches of comfort are beyond reach. I have never felt more disconnected and have never been more in need of community. 

Ujima reminds me that wellness and suffering both happen in the collective. While 2020 has left me emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted, I must continue to seek healing. I cannot be of service and in service to my family and my community if I am not well. Healing will come when I reach out, reach up, reach back, and reach within.

Reaching out to get help for myself and reaching out to help others both cultivate wellness. Engaging with a mental health professional or simply talking with a trusted friend can relieve overwhelm and loneliness. Being of service to the community often places your problems in perspective and doing good feels good. 

Reaching up, connecting to whatever Divine source you recognize, can offer hope to help you endure when you want to quit. Reaching back, remembering the indomitable strength of our ancestors, knowing that they still walk with us, can guide and protect through difficult moments. Reaching within, whether through journaling, taking time in nature, meditation, or another practice, can provide the necessary grounding to develop the inner peace which is vital to thrive in the unprecedented times in which we are living. 

Pain has been all around us this year. Our global family members are hurting and, in many cases, we are hurting too. Ujima gives us a gift of understanding that we are in this together, and it is only together that we can and will be well.

By Sharisse Kimbro

We invite you to join our virtual emotional emancipation circle on CHNConnect to connect, learn, heal, and grow together as people of Black African ancestry.

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Nguzo SabaQuote by Summer L. Hamilton