Kwanzaa-Day 4 Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) oo-JAH-mah

If there were ever a principle that should be reflected on after a holiday that has been commercialized it should be Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics). While we live in a global society and our world is centered around international trade, there is something to be said about supporting local business owners and keeping fiscal resources in the community. The principle Ujamaa is a cry for us to support one another economically.

Dr. Claude Anderson in the book Powernomics acknowledges the American dollar stays in the African American community less than 24 hours. In most cases now, the dollar never reaches the African American Community with the advent of direct deposit. Communities (ethnic, religious, or local) that are thriving, the dollar circulates within that community several times before it leaves. The power of money circulating in the various businesses in a local community builds the community. That is the reason you hear political candidates speak about being pro local business in town, village, city, municipal or county elections. Local businesses help drive the economy, employ people, make the community attractive, and create a strong tax base. So goes the local businesses, so goes the local community.

We need more African American Entrepreneurs and Business owners. According to the Brookings Institution, “if Black business ownership continues to grow at its current rate (4.72%), it will take 256 years to reach parity with the share of Black people in America-a timeline that leaves racial wealth gaps entrenched.”

There are plethora of African-America restaurants, barber shops and hair salons and African American female entrepreneurship is on the rise.  However the greatest number of majority African American businesses are in the social assistance and healthcare sector. Yet local businesses that start still have a 3–5-year lifespan of existence or a 3–5-year lifespan before they become fully profitable. Forbes Magazine says” The Intuit QuickBooks report shows that 57% of Black business owners were denied a bank loan at least once when they started their businesses, compared to 37% non-business owners. On average it costs the black entrepreneur $5000 more to start their business.”  Getting a community to begin to reflect on cooperative economics and practice cooperative economics is a reasonable way to build a healthy and stable economic community. We continually need more diverse types of businesses and firms.

Cooperative Economics is a necessity for the stabilization of a local, steady economic community. Cooperatives are businesses owned and controlled by the people who use them. Cooperatives differ from other businesses because they are member owned and operate for the benefit of its members rather than soley earning profits for investors (often outside of the community). The fourth principle Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) is a commitment to the practice of shared social wealth and the work necessary to achieve it. The consumer is not just a customer but a partner and owner.

This type of thinking is transformative and (while we shy away from the word), revolutionary. Our culture is so profit driven that even industries that are helping industries: healthcare, education etc,. are motivated by economic gain. People must make a living to meet their basic necessities. Shared wealth is a phrase that is shunned by conservative pundits. The sharing and owning of a business helps in areas of community development.

One of things that is so alarming about the African American Freedom Struggle is that we have great examples of what we should aspire to do. Implementing is the area of concern. However every local community has resources to help aspiring entrepreneurs: the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA).

Who can disagree with the Kwanzaa principles of Unity (Umoja), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) and now Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics). The concept of living our lives centered on principles that can be found in The Judeo-Christian Faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) as well as the faith traditions of our Eastern Brothers and sisters is encouraging.

For so long we talked about political strength, religious or spiritual strength and the village raising our families. The absence of an economic vision though is crippling. The work of Richard Allen and later Booker T. Washington, Claude Anderson, Julianne Malveaux, Willene Johnson, and Susan M. Collins speaks to the importance of economic vision for people of African descendant and all people. It was very prophetic and fitting for the principle Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) to be part of our Global celebration and reflection. HABARI GANI! Happy Kwanzaa

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