Umoja as Pan-African thought and practice

Umoja is not merely an abstraction, but is expressed in word and deed. At the core of our striving for unity is the recognition that we are one people who share a common destiny. Thus in striving for unity, our petty divisions and differences pale in comparison to the grand vision of the future for African people that we should be collectively working to bring into being.
It must be emphasized that unity is not the same and uniformity. In fact, the genius of African culture is that despite apparent differences, we find innumerable examples of an underlying cultural unity. This is why many of us speak of the African way as an all-encompassing point of reference. We are referring to those values and behaviors that demonstrate the core of who we are wherever we find ourselves.
It is this unity that enabled us to forge great societies in the past, at the dawn of civilization all the way up until the 19th Century. This unity enabled us to wage valiant struggles against enslavement, colonialism, and other forms of oppression. It is this unity that informed the thinking of many Pan-Africanists to propose that we embrace Kiswahili as a unifying language, and made uhuru sasa (“freedom now”) a rallying cry for African people on both sides of the Atlantic as they struggled for self-determination. It is this same unity that causes us to continue to view our people’s struggles, wherever they may be in the world, as our struggle. This is because beneath any veneer of separation, we know that we are one, and have committed ourselves towards intelligent action based on such recognition.


Heri za Kwanzaa Jamaa (Happy Kwanzaa family)! A long, long time ago, when I was first introduced to Kwanzaa and the Nguzo Saba this is how I learned Umoja: To strive for and maintain unity on seven levels: self, family, neighborhood, community, nation, race, and world.

Let’s practice Umoja in all that we do, recognizing that unity is strength, and that the various differences between us are not unbridgeable chasms. They are a ground of struggle that enables us to forge even stronger bonds that steel our resolve against our enemies, both internal and external, who would act to undermine the well-being of our people.