Fourth day of Kwanzaa

Part of working together to support our community is working within the community. The fourth principle of Kwanzaa is Ujamaa, cooperative economics. Black communities have long used this concept as a way to survive.

After the Civil War, racism quickly re-entrenched itself in most white people’s culture. Dedicated Reconstructionists gave it a good hard try, and for a while Black people exercised the vote to fill legislatures with Black majorities. Newly-freed slaves wanted land, education, opportunity.

But we know all too well how that story went. The myth of the Lost Cause rose in the South, but it didn’t stay there. It chased Black people wherever they migrated. And for decades its morally bankrupt ideology has held Black people back from reaching their full potential.

A green, black, and purple square forms the backdrop for a rectangular design by Jeffrey St. Clair. Next to a square green, purple, and black symbol on a green rectangle, the words say, “The seven principles: Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics. To Improve and support our own stores, businesses and organizations.”
Image by, and courtesy of, Jeffrey St. Clair. See Credits below.

Investing Wisely in Themselves

The freed Black people of the 1870s and later knew better than to rely on their white neighbors’ goodwill. They built tight-knit Black communities and helped each other prosper by investing wisely in themselves.

When I came back to this post in 2023 to update it, I had the benefit of knowing far more than I did int 2017 about stories such as that of Tulsa Oklahoma’s “Black Wall Street,” the Greenwood District. Unfortunately for the residents of Greenwood, white resentment boiled over all too easily.

But wherever they could, resourceful Black people carved out spaces for themselves. An example with a somewhat happier history is Idlewild, the so-called “Black Eden,” in Michigan.

The square picture, framed in pink, says, “When you support small business, you’re supporting a dream (heart).”
See Credits below.

Investing Wisely in Contemporary Black Businesses

You don’t have to be Black to appreciate the unique contributions of local Black-owned businesses. Here in Kansas City we have recently elected the first Black president of our local restaurant association. His restaurant, The Combine, (Kneeland is the co-owner) seeks not only to offer good food, but to provide a place to foster community.

But that’s not a unique story in Kansas City — or in many other parts of the country. We in Kansas City have Black-owned bookstores, shops, and other growing economic engines. Some of the most vibrant, innovative new voices in our economy are Black business owners. Local customers of all colors and backgrounds benefit from their presence.

In this square image from Quotesgram, the background is a a soft-focus photo of a field of lavender flowers. Superimposed over it, the words say, “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things. Mother Teresa.”
Image courtesy of Quotesgram. See Credits below.

It’s a Win-Win for all when we Cooperate

When we support local Black-run institutions, locally-owned small businesses, and locally-based Black artists, everyone wins. If we want a strong, vibrant community, we must devote ourselves to investing wisely in it!


Many thanks to Jeffrey St. Clair via LinkedIn’s SlideShare, for the nicely designed symbol image and “seven principles” slide. The original source for the “support a dream” quote, HustlerColdBrew, no longer exists. I have adjusted the image by adding a pink border to emphasize the small heart at the bottom. I really appreciate QuotesGram, which created the Mother Teresa quote.