The Kwanzaa principle for today, Dec. 28, is Ujima: Collective Work and Responsibility. Ujima means building and maintaining our community together and making our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems while solving them together.
Vanessa Garrison and Morgan Dixon, the founders of GirlTrek, embody the principles of collective work and responsibility. Their eight-year-old outfit organizes black women—caretakers of all, who die of preventable diseases at astronomical rates—to take ownership of their health. In essence, the pair has laid out a blueprint for salvation.
Not without the work.
But for once, that work, that labor, is for us—an action that can be radical for many. In addition to brilliant actions like walking a portion of the Underground Railroad in #HarrietsGreatEscape, this September, GirlTrek convened about 400 women in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado for a #StressProtest, not coincidentally during Labor Day weekend.
“In previous years, as part of our core mission, we have used the month of September to help women focus on stress as a root cause for chronic disease in our community, and we called it ‘Self-Care September’ where we ask women to walk every day of the month, because at GirlTrek we want to get women to walk as a practice of self-care,” Garrison told The Root. “The Stress Protest happens on Labor Day weekend because, of course, black women have been celebrated for our labor in a way that can be very unhealthy, and so it’s a stress protest over Labor Day weekend.”
And at Girl Trek, the focus is on the body, not the spirit so much, because black women traditionally have the sacred down.
“I think that you can root down and have this uber spiritual experience in a lot of places in the black community,” says Dixon, who talked about some of the activities in the #StressProtest weekend. “I also think there’s a lot of resistance, and that’s important. But I think the rise is the levity and the joy. And that’s the things like double dutch aerobics or horseback riding. You know, we can be angry, and we can be joyful. We can hold space for both of those things, and that’s what’s my favorite part about the GirlTrek retreat.”
And so, we give it up to GirlTrek this year for consistent, radical, and pragmatic love of self (and therefore black women and girls), and for doing the work of taking our precious, precarious health into our weathered, manicured, beautiful, brown hands.
Who do you think best embodied Ujima this year? Sound off in the comments.
For each day of Kwanzaa, the African-American cultural holiday that eschews the typical commercialism of the holiday season, we will be highlighting a person or persons from the past year who exemplifies the principle of the day. Kwanzaa was created in 1966 to uplift a sense of community through the principles of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith—all things which have helped us survive since we were dropped on these shores some 400 years ago.