Every individual has the power to take action that can change reality in the African-American community, speakers said Sunday during Ujima, the third day of the local communitywide Kwanzaa celebration.
"How many of us sit down with our children at the end of the day for a meal and ask, 'How was school?' How many of us talk with our husband or wife at the end of the day? How many of us pass those young brothers on the corner doing some unsavory things and talk to them? Collective work and responsibility has many forms," said Akil Ajamu, the host for Sunday night's celebration.
Ajamu, who helps run a learning center for young children in the community, said African-Americans have survived in the United States because they remember their history and are tied together by the legacy of their culture.
Sunday's celebration recognized the Nguzo Saba principle of Ujima, which means collective work and responsibility. About 50 people gathered in the basement of Hope Kensington United Methodist Church at Leroy and Grider streets to hear the historical meaning and join in the symbolism of Kwanzaa, the African-American holiday developed around seven principles of community and nation-building.
The program featured a panel of representatives from groups trying spur economic development, entrepreneurship and self-identity within the black community. Panelists were Cleveland McCloud of the Our Market Steering Committee, Terrance Jackson of the Buffalo Soldiers Ministry of America, Ausar Afrika of the Black Chamber of Commerce and Samuel Radford of Afrika Town.
"This will be a supermarket that you can call your own; it will be a full-fledged supermarket, like Tops or Wegmans," McCloud said, explaining the efforts of a group that is trying to build a supermarket on the old General Electric plant site at Fillmore Avenue and East Ferry Street.
McCloud said the community group, which will meet at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 12 in Evening Star Church, 1552 Fillmore, is trying to combine the best aspects of cooperative and commercial operations.
Joseph Cox, an attorney working with Our Market, said the group is well on its way to signing up a minimum of 2,500 members, who will pay $25 each for privileges, including election of a board of directors and possible dividends if the market turns a profit.
"It would be set up as a representative democracy and elect a board to run the market," Cox said, adding that the operation needs close to 4,500 members to operate.
Various financing packages that include federal and local development dollars are being weighed, he said, to construct and open the 35,000-square-foot facility, which would cost $4.5 million.
Jackson said the local Buffalo Soldiers Ministry is part of a national movement aimed at pooling business and cultural knowledge in black communities to act as a resource for people who want to start businesses and community-based efforts.
Afrika, who operates a bookstore in the community, said he started four years ago to create the Black Chamber of Commerce because he felt his community's needs were not being addressed by existing business organizations. "Here in Buffalo, we only have 4 1/2 businesses for every 1,000 members of our community, and I am not talking about big businesses that are able to employ many people," he said.
Afrika said more must be done to circulate the $2 billion a year spending power of African-Americans.
Today's Kwanzaa celebration at 7 p.m. will take place in the C.H. McCoy Convention Center, 653 Clinton St., where Maulana Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa and the chairman of the Department of Black Studies at California State University at Long Beach, Calif., will speak.