Habari Gani?! Ujima! Patrisse Khan-Cullors Reflected Collective Work and Responsibility in 2017

Patrisse Khan-Cullors (Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Glamour); photo illustration by GMG/The Root
Patrisse Khan-Cullors (Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Glamour); photo illustration by GMG/The Root

This year, for each day of Kwanzaa, The Root is highlighting one person from the community who exemplifies the principle of the day.


On the third day of Kwanzaa, Dec. 28, the principle is Ujima, or “collective work and responsibility.” To practice Ujima is to build and maintain our community together, and to make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and solve them together.

The person we feel best exemplified this year is Patrisse Khan-Cullors.

Khan-Cullors was an artist and activist before Trayvon Martin was gunned down in Sanford, Fla.; before Michael Brown Jr. was killed in Ferguson, Mo.; and before her brother was locked away and brutalized by Los Angeles County, the largest jailer in the United States. She works most closely with JusticeLA, which includes more than 30 organizations working to halt a proposed $3.5 billion jail-expansion plan in L.A. County.

“With $3.5 billion, we could support people who are houseless and getting them homes,” she told The Root in September. “We could support children who have little access to getting healthy food. I’m a lover of life and I deeply believe in humanity’s ability to do better than we’re currently doing.”

Khan-Cullors repeatedly uses her artistic muse to launch innovative social justice actions like placing beds front and center (#JailBedDrop) to bring eyes to the injustice of jail expansion in communities that desperately need so much more.


We give it up to Patrisse Khan-Cullors for her sacrifice, for her bravery and for putting in the work that benefits us all. We can’t wait to read her book, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, due to drop at the top of 2018.


Who do you think exemplified Ujima, or collective work and responsibility, this year? Sound off in the comments!

Sidenote: Those practicing Kwanzaa greet each other with the words “Habari Gani?!” roughly translated as “What’s the good news?” To which participants respond with the principle of the day, in this case, “Ujima!” (pronounced oooh-jee-mah). 

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.