Mulana Karenga challenged African-Americans on Tuesday to adopt an ethic of sharing that embraces the highest ideals of ancient African philosophies.
The creator of the 33-year-old African-American cultural celebration, Kwanzaa, addressed a crowd of about 300 in the Mason O. Damon Auditorium in the Central Library. Tuesday, the third day of the seven-day celebration, was dedicated to the principle of Ujima, which in Swahili means collective work and responsibility.
"We have a shared obligation and mission to leave the world making it more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it," Karenga said.
That, he said, can be accomplished by embracing the ancient African principles of sharing upon which Kwanzaa is based. They are principles, Karenga said, that celebrate family, community and culture and are especially important to remember as African peoples head into a new era of rapid technological change.
"Whatever we do in the future, we must strengthen family, community and culture," Karenga said. "We have to decide what kind of life we want to live. Our oppressor cannot teach us, and this new era will present challenges to our historical identity."
The chairman of the department of black studies at California State University at Long Beach, Karenga created Kwanzaa in the midst of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Among its main goals, Kwanzaa is intended to remind African-Americans of the core values of their African heritage, which Karenga said are being shared by 28 million people throughout the globe who also now celebrate Kwanzaa.
"It is a wonderful thing to be African, but you've got to think about it. Everywhere you turn in the media, they're talking about the pathology of being African," Karenga said.
He challenged African-Americans to "measure ourselves in the best of human history and culture."
"Nobody in the history of the world has higher values than we do; no one is more sacred," he said. "We are all divinely chosen, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender. . . . We are all compelled to constantly bring good into the world and not let any good be lost."
The challenges to such integrity are great as the new millennium approaches, Karenga warned, but all must remember to share good.
"The best good is shared good. All the best good you ever had, you shared it with somebody," he said.
Freedom, too, must be shared, Karenga said, reminding his audience that runaway slave and famed Underground Railroad "conductor" Harriet Tubman had already won her freedom but still went back several times to help free others.
"She was at the crossroads between enslavement and freedom, but when she stepped across, she still felt empty. Freedom wasn't free if there wasn't anybody else free but her," said Karenga.
"Never forget from where we came, and always praise the bridge that carried us over," he said.