Reflecting on Collective Work and Responsibility


by Sean H. Palmer

It is on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Black Student Life that we pause to think about the principal of Ujima in our annual Kwanzaa Celebration. Since restarting this tradition in 2010, Duke’s Kwanzaa celebration has sought to lift up one principal each year in the hopes of honoring each principal in a seven-year cycle.

As we turn our attentions to Ujima’s meaning--collective work and responsibility--we are reminded of the depth of sacrifice by the first five undergraduate students and the first three graduate students. Out of their work and responsibility, Duke’s Black community came into fruition, bearing much fruit that has culminated in the creation of a progressive and giving professional class. We stand on the shoulders of the many brothers and sisters who created success out of hardship, persevered in spite of alienation, and excelled in response to obstacles. It is out of this commitment that we recognize our responsibility to making a better Duke. And, it is only through our collective work as advocates, organizers, researchers, writers, and performers that we make our indelible impression upon this place.

It is through Kwanzaa that we reflect on all that has been done, and all that must be done. We, thus, seek to invite all students of Pan-African descent to join in African drumming, a libation ceremony, and Karamu (meaning big feast). Kwanzaa is but one way we help people of African descent explore and appreciate both differences and similarities within Duke’s community. 

Join us in deep reflection, celebration and fellowship, tonight at 7:10 pm in the Mary Lou Center for Black Culture.