Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa) – to build our stores, shops, and other businesses to profit from them together. -Kwanzaa Day 4
Purpose (Nia) – to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. Kwanzaa Day 5
When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion. Ethiopian proverb
A Word of Hope
About 100 years ago, in Tulsa, Okla., a few hundred miles from Dallas, Black Wall Street sprang up on the segregated north side of the city in a neighborhood called Greenwood. African-Americans were drawn to the city for the oil – just like others flocked to the city for the boom of the early 1900s. Also referred to as Little Africa, the area of town thrived with superior schools, banks, hotels, cafes, clothiers, movie theaters and homes with indoor plumbing. Black Wall Street is a wonderful example of how African-Americans came together to build businesses and successful communities that remembered the greatness of the people whose ancestors were from Africa.
Another example comes from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book, We Were Eight Years in Power, where he collects essays about the eight years of Pres. Obama’s years leading our country and he reminds the world that right after the Civil War, African-Americans successfully governed South Carolina.
I wish the stories ended here. Ended happy. That we could stop here, and say this was the beginning of vibrant communities of people of all colors working together for a better future for all our kids. But we need to know and own what happened to these communities. In both cases white fear and notions of white supremacy ruled the day. Black Wall Street was destroyed by whites who killed as many as 300 African Americans and left more than 9,000 homeless after the area was burned to the ground in 1921. It all started because a white woman accused a Black man of attempted sexual assault, which the state and locals used as an excuse to attack. In South Carolina, whites regained control and instituted Jim Crow. As Coates reminds us with a WEB Du Bois: “If there was one thing that South Carolina feared more than bad Negro government, it was good Negro government.”
We’d have to be blind to look around our world and see that this backlash against successful Black individuals and communities isn’t happening today. It seems like we continue to fight the same battles over and over. I am even mad at my ancestors, our ancestors, for not solving this already. But here we are … and I am wondering what would happen if we truly believed the Ethiopian proverb: When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion? I wonder how as a white woman, I can add my spider web to the cause? How I can know history, not to repeat it, but to consciously do something different than my ancestors, our ancestors did? How can I help? How can we help better live out the very biblical idea from the early church to come together as supportive communities?
All the believers stayed together and shared everything. They sold their land and the things they owned. Then they divided the money and gave it to those who needed it. The believers shared a common purpose, and every day they spent much of their time together in the Temple area. They also ate together in their homes. They were happy to share their food and ate with joyful hearts. Acts 2: 44-46
Creator: Help us to have new stories to tell … help us celebrate the successes of African American communities – and honor African American history all months of the year. Help us support and honor African American communities, businesses and heritage. Help us to be the spider webs united to tie up racism and hate, and banish them from our world. Help us be the ones we were waiting for. Amen