- Dr. Akinyele Umoja is the Chair and Associate Professor in the African American Studies department at Georgia State University. He received a bachelor’s degree in African American Studies from California State University Los Angeles. Later receiving his Masters and Ph.D. in Liberal Arts from Emory University. He is a mentor and civil rights activist and has spent most of his life and career serving the African American community. His research interests include, African-American Social Movements, The Civil Rights Movement and The Black Power Movement.
Dr. Umoja discusses the strengths and weaknesses in the African American community compared to the Jim Crow era. “There is more wealth, there is more education, there is more technical know-how today, but if your talking about in terms of unity, solidarity, sense of family and belonging, I think we’re weaker than we were then. We are more materialistic today.”
Umoja talks about the youth and African Americans coming together to keep the community strong. “I think we have to start coming up with more collective and cooperative solutions that include more members of our community and not just being individualistic”, says Umoja. “I think collectively we have to begin to look at our neighborhoods and our neighbors differently, in terms of making it a more pleasant place and a place that’s productive and a good environment for the nurturing and development of our youth.”
He offers solutions for African Americans that will elicit a positive change in the community: organization and consciousness. Umoja states, “we as black people have to be organized. We have to join organizations and we have to be apart of organizations and we have to be conscious of our own interest as a community”, explains Umoja. “America just tells us to be an individual but you need groups in order to survive in the progress. We need to protect our own culture. We need to understand what our culture is number one, because if you can’t understand what our culture is you won’t be able to protect it, so we have to come up with things, how can we protect and save ourselves.”
Umoja states that African Americans need to come together to find ways to empower themselves and their community. Suggesting that blacks should come together to purchase properties in predominantly African American communities on a cooperative basis. He gives insight about an organization entitled, Uhuru Esusu, whose aim is to come together and purchase homes debt free in African American neighborhoods.
Umoja explains, “the Uhuru Esusu, are brothers and sisters who started pooling their resources and began to buy properties in the African American communities in South Atlanta and Metro Atlanta, but its primarily in predominantly black communities”, explains Umoja. “Many of our traditional black neighborhoods are becoming gentrified, but they are beginning to buy property particularly as the property values are declining. These men and women, they’re not wealthy people but with their small resources have been pooling their resources to purchase communities.”
- Research has shown that the median net worth for Blacks has declined 50% and property values are lower in African American communities, compared to white communities.
Wekesa Madzimoyo is a counselor and activist in the African American community. He was a double major at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill where he received his degree in Political Science and African American Studies. During college, Madzimoyo was apart of the Black Student Movement and instrumental in bringing the African American Studies department to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Currently he heads an organization in Atlanta, the Uhuru Esusu. Madzimoyo discusses the basis behind the organization and their goals. “The Uhuru Esusu is a way of black people funding our own work, our own production. Every month a set amount of money is put in and a person, a family, or an individual gets the hand, now they are committed for the rotation, if the rotation is a year, two years, or five years, whatever the rotation is”, explains Madzimoyo. “In our case we have 10 families paying $500 a month, so that’s $5000 a month. And what we say is, instead of going to get credit from the bank, lets be our own bank, like our ancestors did.”
Madzimoyo explains what prompted the creation of Uhuru Esusu here in Atlanta. “Our goal was to get homes free and clear, buy homes. Because folks have manipulated this transfer of wealth, manipulated this housing depression and Black people lost their houses and our communities are ravished”, says Madzimoyo. “You have houses in 2006 that were worth $150,000, selling for $15,000. Now they are selling for like $20-$25,000, maybe $30,000 at the most. So we were like, how can we take advantage of this, we know the disadvantages, we lost our jobs, we lost our houses, so we decided to use what our ancestors used and collectively pull ourselves together and pool this money.”