Throughout the generations, African American’s tireless ethic of commitment to social progress and justice has, to varying degree, been contingent upon our collective identity. The will and capacity to execute time, energy, skill, and even career to addressing the plight of our condition has waxed and waned in different eras. What remains consistent with each generation is the obligation to collectively maintain a functional dedication and responsibility to unearthing the past, changing the present, and envisioning the future of our people. On a socio-political position, Karenga was challenging the existing complications of a people that was (is) struggling to dedicate resource to a collective agenda.
A broad agenda focused on African American social acceleration connotes a state of unanimity, and indicatively illustrates the capacity for collective action and responsibility. In 1941, an alliance between the NAACP, New Negro Congress, and Urban League brought to fruition a needed concession with Franklin Roosevelt forcing him to issue Executive Order 8802. While Walter White, John Davis, and A. Phillip Randolph rose as the national figures who put the pressure on the president (especially with Randolph’s threat to march on Washington), it was the local grassroots networks that put strength to their power. A decade before the executive order was signed, the three organizations were organizing, aligning, and harnessing the existing voice for equal employment opportunity. Effective Black unions were established in cities across the nation. Unions, local chapters, fraternal and sorority organizations (non-collegiate affiliation), and lodges became the method of shifting Black folks into visceral political protest network. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters were a perfect example of this new age of collective work and responsibility. Executive order 8802 was one the first concessions that changed federal policy because it was negotiated from a position of power, an offspring of what Dr. Karenga had later termed Ujimaa.
The proverbial question is, how will this historical example inform Black folk strategically in 2012? The blueprint is a source, one of many. Local organizing efforts inform, directs, and facilitate national organizations, providing them with insight, research, data, and clarity to the broader body politic of African Americans. I maintain that Dr. Karenga truly articulated that collective responsibility will not start with the Randolphs, Whites, or Davises of our time. It will only begin with the nameless individuals and collectives that commit to the day-to-day work and believes it is their responsibility to place and keep our agenda on the table.