African American ethnic and political mobilization in the early 20th century has, for the most part, been a product of professional commitment by countless servant – leaders. At the turn of the 20th century and well into 1960s, it was a badge of honor to be known as a “race man” or “race woman”. The phrase connoted this person was for the development of African American progress, social justice, and equality. Deeply a part of this trend was the abundance of women and men who dedicated their careers to the restoration of Black folk’s traditional greatness. Uniquely, each generation had to define what this meant for them. Frantz Fanon also deliberated this point with, “each generation must discover its mission, fulfill or betray, in relative opacity.” It can be argued that it was more common to witness the virtue of collective identity and progressive dedication in the first half of the 20th century because it was heavily valued. However, this weighs against the fact that overt white-supremacy both denied Blacks the opportunity to attain vocation beyond segregated lines, but also created a sub-division labor force which amounted to restrictive menial positions of employment. Consequently, both can be true as it historically relates to African American’s ambition to seek employment for service of the people.
Dr. Karenga’s adept knowledge of values and its implementation amongst social formation argued that we must have an individual purpose that contributes to the acceleration of Black folk as a whole. Individual and institutional commitment has to be aligned and re-oriented toward a focused pursuit of economic development, political security, social affirmation, educational enhancement, and mental and physical health of African Americans. How does this look in the 21st century? How far off the mark are we? Do we, African Americans, still possess the will to devote our career ambitions toward our plight and improvement? In the pursuit of capital and career objectives we have abandoned the “cause” or revisioned our purpose. Each year in passing, it’s becoming more evident that the previous and current generation (beneficiaries of Civil Rights legislation) are more disconnected from purposeful career decisions that promote Black progress. Professional acquisition is dictated by prestige and capital and not the mission of our people. With the principle of Nia, I argue, this is what Dr. Karenga was attempting to protect US from.