Ujima, urban violence, and #WeThePeople

DJ Bandana BlackBuffalo, New York (where I was born) is cold and there are pockets of it that are impoverished and alarmingly dangerous. But to my cousin, Rashimee, it’s his beloved hometown- there are at least a dozen pictures of him on Facebook proudly sporting an “I Am Buffalo” hoodie.

Unlike someone like me, who never gets to know their neighbors (what if they start randomly popping by?), Rahsimee has always been connected to his community. He’s even more so now that he’s a radio personality and DJ, and the violence he sees and hears about touches him deeply. Oftentimes, it’s personal for him because a murder victim was someone he knew.

On Christmas Eve, he put out a video, which was featured on 93.7 WBLK, in which he asked “Who is really responsible for the killings/crime in our city?”.

It’s easy to become desensitized to violence when you live in a dangerous area and apathy can become somewhat of a survival mechanism. But to believe the best course of action to take when you see something wrong is to keep your head down, is to believe you are powerless- and therein lies the real danger.  Alice Walker perfectly summed up this sentiment when she said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

I think the reason Rashimee’s video moved me so much, was because he focused on what people in a community can do themselves to improve their neighborhoods.

I never celebrated Kwanzaa (although this year I’m thinking it about it more because I’m reading a few books about the African American civil rights movement in 1960s), but Rashimee’s plea to put fear and apathy aside to reach out to someone troubled, made me think of Ujima, the principle celebrated on the third day.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.

But taking responsibility for your neighborhood (if your neighborhood is particularly dangerous) takes not only time and effort-  it also takes bravery!

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