Umoja: Unity or Practicing Unanimity


Jo Ann Gibson Robinson

Unity is indicative within an organized effort of agreement, morale, and action to progressive movement of Black folk. Karenga knew that unity was a theory in practice and not a pragmatic reality attained by the movement. Unity, in practicality, is a misnomer of what history demonstrates as a clear representation of “unanimity”. Unanimity is the overall conclusive consensus which does not necessarily connote 100% agreement or unity. Its important to illustrate the need for unanimity as a natural evolution toward the practice of unity as a theory or principle.

The organizing effort of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (MBB) of 1955 – 1956 offers us an indisputable example of unanimity which bridged multiple initiatives together for a common cause. The burning fervor to lead a direct assault against segregation already existed unanimously in large portions of the Black community in Montgomery before December 1955. Organizing efforts after the arrest brought numerous activist from a few existing institutions and efforts: Women’s Political Council, NAACP, Interdenominational Ministers Alliance, and the First Baptist Church. Sustainability of the 381 day boycott, the pressure for state constitutional changes, and the hiring of Black bus drivers was a monumental effort of unanimity because not all variables agreed at every aspect of the organizing. The state of “unity” was more a practice of unanimity when one considers that leadership, financial support, and community investment were all points of contention that was resolved through the inarguable belief in the higher consensus: the end to segregation. Read upon the efforts of the Council of Federated Organizations to bring awareness of how four major national organizations achieved unanimity (not unity) in voter registration in Alabama and Mississippi.

Like others previously stated, our effort in the Black community cannot not be postponed until we obtain a theoretical “unity”. Unity, like democracy, is something that is forever strived for and never achieved as an arrived state. Human and community complexity demands a practical reality of “unanimity” which takes into consideration all perspectives, ideas, and disagreements and resolves them with a continuous effort to uncover a consensus in order to obtain the higher purpose and/or goal. The principle of unanimity prompts us to methodically respond now with the idea that we can connect find Black consensus and resolve our differences for the common goal.

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