Many moons ago, in our organizing of women to build what is now non-profit Ujamaa Collective, we began to discuss the importance of the concept and practice of fair trade. Fair Trade ensures that producers around the world in developing countries are paid fairly for their work. For us, it also translates to local producers. Every time you buy something, you are inevitably supporting something. So making the choice to support what is fair and just seems easy, right? Well not so much in the world trade market…there’s more exploitation than you may know! But here in Pittsburgh, as we were developing our organization to serve diverse Africana women, we realized that using traditional African principles pulled from the past in conjunction with economic and entrepreneurial development, spoke directly to the issues we were experiencing and problems we wanted to solve. No one wants to be taken advantage of in their work, however for Black and Brown people locally and globally it happens often. And that exploitative behavior is linked directly to what some believe about themselves and others. Ujamaa puts principles and values into action that helps us to see “the other” as our self. And we strongly believe that if we reoriented our values and truly matched them to our actions, the whole world would shift.
One such principle we use and share with others is the concept of Ubuntu which means “I am because we are, and because we are, I am.” This concept has origins in the southern region of Africa. Essentially what it means is that we only know our self through our relationships with others.
A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
Every year, Ujamaa hosts students in our space from South America for learning, connecting and creating. We shared Ubuntu in a lesson and activity. Here’s the video feedback from a young woman from Peru.
Ujamaa Collective, non-profit organization based in the Historic Hill District, participates in global engagement in multiple ways. One such way is through hosting youth in our artisan boutique and creative classroom, learning, making and connecting on the Africana principles that offer universal access to building a just community.