Randall Woodfin’s #BirminghamPromise Embodies Ujima, or Collective Work and Responsibility

Illustration for article titled Randall Woodfin’s #BirminghamPromise Embodies Ujima, or Collective Work and Responsibility

On today, the third day of Kwanzaa, we celebrate the principle Ujima, or collective work and responsibility.

Last year, those who embodied Ujima were the founders of GirlTrek, Vanessa Garrison and Morgan Dixon; in 2017, it was Patrisse Marie Cullors. This year, the honor goes to Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, who promised that starting in 2020, any Birmingham City School student who graduates high school will be able to attend any two-or four-year school in Alabama tuition-free.

With the #BirminghamPromise, Woodfin is investing in his literal community—after all, all good charity begins at home—and bringing together both the public and the private sector (hullo collective work and responsibility), all to boost black children, clearly our most precious resource.

The 38-year-old civil servant has committed the city to an initial $2 million investment and will work with the United Way to raise $35 to $50 million to endow the fund,” reported The Root’s senior writer Michael Harriot in an exclusive interview with Woodfin in September.


And although we know education is certainly not the end-all-be-all to decrease the chasm of economic disparity between African Americans and their white counterpoints (no, that gap was created systemically, and will have to be addressed systemically), it is true that education is one of the greatest catalysts to change what Woodfin calls a student’s entire “quality of life.”

“In my opinion, the only way we change the state of black America is by making real, tangible investments in our youngest generation,” Woodfin says. “This has the fundamental capacity to literally change the quality of life, not just for these young people but for their families, which in turn, changes the quality of life for the communities and neighborhoods they live in, which in turn changes the quality of life for the entire city.”


Thank you, mayor, for believing the children are our future.


Editor’s Note: For each day of Kwanzaa, we will be highlighting one person from the community who exemplifies the principle of the day. Who do you think exemplified Ujima or collective work and responsibility this year? Sound off!


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!”

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.