Umoja – Unity

Umoja is the first principle of Kwanzaa — it means to strive for AND to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

In Deuteronomy 6 the Lord outlines His commands to the Children of Israel. “These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

In the New Testament, another commandment is given to Fathers: “Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” How are Fathers to do that? Well, following the principles above is a perfect start.

I have yet to make my way to see Django, but will do so soon. How apropos, it began running the day before Kwanzaa and takes us back to a part of a painful history for our race, our nation, our community, our families. How far have we come? This movie may be a good starting point to begin that dialogue again. Change is not and was not made in broad strokes, it doesn’t start outward. Change starts on small scales, it begins with the power of one. Change yourself, you can change your families and thus change your world. Heal yourself, you can effect healing in your families and our world. What lessons have we forgotten to teach our children. What have we failed to impress upon their hearts? Do we talk to them when we’re sitting at home, walking along the road, when we lie down and when we get up? Fathers are instructed to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord, but yet in the African American community 72% of children (according to 2011 statistics) are being raised in single parent, female headed households. The respect we had for one another has eroded. We once held the belief that I am you and you are me, that your mother is my mother, my ancestors were your ancestors. Have we forgotten the importance of legacy or, did we ever learn it? I was in the hair salon a week ago and a man was making fun of having twelve children by many different women, that he was faithfully taking care of one and saw that as progress. This is a sad day when we now see this as a joking matter. When our homes are divided, it’s hard to teach children the importance of unity, the importance of self, the importance of those who look just like them. If I am you and you are me, you won’t or shouldn’t find it so easy to steal from me, violate me, abandon me, disrespect me. Remember, they learn better from what they see modeled, not by what you say. If they see a man, they know how to become a man. They see a father, they have a guideline to follow in their desire to become one. Our families, communities, and race are in trouble, from Dallas to Detroit, Chicago to Columbus, Akron to Africa!

Legacy. I was about nine or 10 years old the last time I can recall singing the Black National Anthem in school. Remember that?

Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring.
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise,
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast’ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee,
Shadowed beneath thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Let’s start the dialogue. Can we talk?

(Thank God, I found a censored version without the B word!)

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