Kujichagulia: Self-determination or Collective Contribution

At the core of most progressive efforts developed from African Americans is the principle to determine one’s own destiny as a people. Dr. Karenga conveyed the virtue that determining the vision, existence, politics, economy, and cultural lineage were essential to the maintenance of a peoplehood. This operative ideal that co-exist between individual and community aspirations but were NOT separate functions. Self-determination is as much of a community and ethnic functionality as it is a individuals obligation to the people.

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Tunis Campbell

The historical magnificence of African Americans is the abundance of movements that illustrate a self determined agenda. During the 19th century, African American’s struggle for freedom was intensively pronounced with self-determination just as their descendants pronounced a century later. In 1865, Tunis Campbell, a northern born free African American from New Jersey, lead a community development initiative of newly emancipated Blacks in Southeast Georgia in the occupation of resettled land after the civil war. His organizing effort supported 1000 African Americans to resettle abandon land for agrarian commerce, established educational centers for children and adults, increased political activism and voting registration, and to develop defense mechanisms against violent white paramilitias. After the betrayal of support from General Oliver Howard (Howard University is named from), the settlement was dismantled at gun point which Campbell peacefully led the people to central Georgia. Tunis would continue as a political activist in Southern states confronting white-supremacy and facing numerous near death experiences for the advocacy of African Americans.

This level of self-determination demonstrated on behalf of Blacks pre and post civil war would become an entrenched hallmark of every effort up to the 1970s. Interesting enough, this basic self-determined principle maintained the same potent efficacy when political liberation philosophy evolved during the time of Karenga’s writings. One’s aspiration for determining individual fate is intricately tied to the fate of one’s unified collective connection. Its vital that we do not misconstrued America’s ethical virtue of ‘rugged individualism’ for Karenga’s self-determination. The former supports capitalism (and the destruction of Black collective consciousness), the later builds and restore a peoplehood to a vibrantly functional contributor.

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