Ujamaa/Cooperative Economics: Day Four of Kwanzaa
A Celebration of Family, Community and the Common Good
Perspective on Cooperative Economic
The cooperative economic principle is based on the concept and practice of familyhood, the recognition of mutual involvement in one another. Each member of the family recognizes their responsibility to each other’s well-being. At the core of familyhood is the concept that everyone has an obligation to work, i.e., invest in the family.
Focus: What Cooperative Economic Day is about?
Cooperative Economic/Ujamaa Day focuses on activities which reinforce the principle of Cooperative Economic. Some activities may include, but are not mandatory:
- Make the celebration focus on your family
- Make the celebration festive and joyous
- Try to have a special meal- at home or away
- Review the Kwanzaa Symbol Zawadi (Gifts)
- Discuss how the neighborhood can establish a cooperative economic project
- Discuss ways your family will pool its resources together (family saving where everyone contributes)
- Do an activity which requires everyone to contribute some type of resource (labor, money)
Cooperative Economics in Black History
Housewives’ League of Detroit
In 1930 a group of approximately fifty black women responded to a call issued by the wife of the pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church to create an organization of housewives. This organization was to leverage the economic capacity and build a power base for blacks in Detroit. The Housewives League combined economic nationalism and black women’s self-determination to help black families and black businesses survive the Great Depression. The only requirement for membership was a pledge to support black businesses, buy black products and patronize black professionals, thereby keeping money in the black community. The Housewives League believed that black women were the most strategically positioned group to preserve and expand the internal economy, and they argued that it was their duty as “women controlling 85 percent of the family budget to unlock through concentrated spending close doors that [black] youth may have the opportunity to develop and establish businesses in the fields closest to them.” Historian Jacqueline Jones notes that during the Great Depression, these “leagues had an impact comparable to that of the CIO in its organizing efforts and second only to government jobs as a new source of opening.”
Reference: A Shining thread of Hope, Author: Darlene Clark Hine and Kathleen Thompson.
This symbol represents the rewards that come from creative and productive work. Children are the primary recipient of gifts. They are given gifts for the commitments made and kept (the things they have done to further their family or community development, i.e., school performance and that of the family and neighborhood. Children learn that rewards are earned, that they are not entitled to the good things of life. Rather, they learn through the practice of Kwanzaa that they must work, sacrifice, and achieve in order to earn the rewards that come from an achieved life. Whatever gift is given during Kwanzaa, a book and heritage symbol.
Candle Lighting Activity
Candle Lighting: On the fourth day of Kwanzaa the family lights the red candle. This candle is symbolic of the prosperity and success. The placement and order of the Kwanzaa candles teach and reinforce valuable lessons for the family. The red candle is symbolic of effort or work. Effort and work is what produces a prosperous future. Hence, the family or community rewards the children and youth for their achievements.
The candle lighting activity presents one of the best moments for family members to assess their practice around “cooperative economic” and make a specific commitment to practice “cooperative” during the next year.
Note: Emphasize the positive in the assessment. Do not start with what has not been done. Reinforce and reward even partial achievement or success. Record your family commitments in a Kwanzaa journal.