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Second in a series for the 50th Anniversary Nguzo Saba 2015 Conference (September 24-27), celebrating the founding of our organization Us and the introduction of the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles) and Kawaida philosophy. The following are excerpts from a 1973 article titled “A Strategy for Struggle: Turning Weakness into Strength” which I published in the Black Scholar during my political imprisonment on trumped up charges and subsequently published in my book titled Essays on Struggle: Position and Analysis in 1978 by Kawaida Publications. A new 50th anniversary edition will be published by the University of Sankore Press and be available at the conference.
Whatever else we intend or decide to alter or overthrow, we will not succeed until we first alter and overthrow our own unawareness of ourselves and acquire a pro¬found knowledge and understanding of the nature of our oppression. Until we achieve a comprehensive consciousness of ourselves, we cannot identify or engage decisively in our historical tasks or achieve the level and extent of unity we need to win in this historic and heroic struggle in which we have sacrificed so much.
In the Sixties we began to define and ac¬cept ourselves and to negate the historical monopoly the oppressor had on our minds. And we actually changed reality by this de¬fiantly proud acceptance of ourselves. But that was only a beginning; we must now move from the mere announcement of our existence to building and protecting the basis for it. And that basis must be a political one, one of power; power to defend and develop, to create and expand. In a word, we must come into political existence by becoming a power recognized and respected beyond the con¬fines of the community, a power conscious of its historical tasks and committed to the re-volutionary ethic and aspiration of the com¬prehensive and continuing transformation of society and ourselves.
What we must do then, is overturn ourse¬lves, reassess and remould ourselves and our re-lations with each other as a priority and pre¬condition to our moves to alter and restructure our relations in society and the world. Moreover, we must end the systematic sup¬pression of our history by the oppressor and extract from it its subversive content, i.e., its heroic and instructive images, events and is¬sues that provide viable and valuable alterna¬tives to the oppressive realities to which our people, unaware of these historical pos¬sibilities so often bow.
We as a people have never accepted our enslavement and oppression and have always searched for historical alternatives to this narrow and repressive reality assembled by our oppressor. But sometimes, we choose in¬correctly from the historical alternatives open to us, because of the continuing confu¬sion created by the contradictions inherent in the crippling context of our development. In spite of these contradictions and our dif¬ferent approaches to them as a people, free¬dom has always been our major goal. But freedom or liberation as a historical objective has opened itself to different interpretations and these interpretations reflect the historical alternatives open to us to achieve it.
As a strategic model, liberation is essen¬tially a call and push for Black Power which Kawaida defines as the collective struggle to achieve three basic goals: self-determination, self-respect and self-defense. Historically, liberation as a model and movement draws its images and assertions from the full and informative past of our peo¬ple, recog¬nizing both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King as fundamental to the direction and de¬velopment of our struggle for human free¬dom. And this model and movement teach us that we must in¬vest ourselves in larger areas of social pur¬pose including all progressive peoples in re¬volutionary opposition to the established order. We must link issues and struggles and see that the issue of welfare is connected to imperialist wars and with the struggle at Wounded Knee, and that peace and freedom, Coachella Valley and Vietnam, “Spanish” Harlem and Johannesburg and all the struggles for liberation, independence and revolution in Africa, Asia and Latin America are all interconnected and interre¬lated, all historical and heroic opposition to the same source of oppression and exploita¬tion.
We struggle here against racial oppression and class exploitation—against racism and capitalism, at home and in its imperialist ex¬tension. And because of this dual character of our oppression, our approach must be dual—one of national liberation and social revolu¬tion. And in order for us to meet the objective requirements of our struggle, it seems there are certain areas in which we must con¬sciously and constantly apply ourselves. What immediately comes to mind is a list including a revolutionary ideology and system of values, an expanding circle of conscious and commit¬ted intellectuals, a National Black party, a genuine nationalist youth movement, an al-ternative press and media, basic alterna¬tive institutions, and the end of character assassination as a substitute for political criticism and ideological struggle.
Especially, must we stop denying our women their full and heroic role in the history and development of our struggle. Black women have always been equal to Black men in oppression and resistance, in production as well as progressive thought and struggle and we are greatly unjust to ourselves to claim otherwise. There can be no real argument against the human equality of man and woman, against the need for libera¬tion and revolution to reach and raise to a higher level of life each and all of us, man, woman and child. To argue otherwise is to undermine and remove the human content and strength from our struggle and deny ourselves as Black men an abundant and indispensable source of love, inspiration and power.
The struggle ahead is a long one and can¬not be posed in terms of months and years. The Vietnamese have been fighting for their freedom for hundreds of years and so have our own people. How then can we of this generation talk in terms of five, ten, or fifty years or grow weak and wander from the struggle, abandoning our original aspiration? It is important that we who struggle seriously recognize the long time it takes real revolu¬tion to mature and come to fruit. And we must stop looking for the illusive “great leap” and work toward bringing it into being. We struggle here in the U.S. for liberation, a lib¬eration that in its full social and philosophical sense offers and organizes an expanding realm of freedom, freedom from want, toil and domination, freedom to love, grow and create.
We struggle for a new vision and value system summed up in the Nguzo Saba, our Seven Principles: Umoja (Unity—in love and struggle); Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics and its democratic socialist extension), Nia (Purpose—the collective vocation of libera¬tion and revolution), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith in ourselves and in the human capacity to overcome and achieve).
Based firmly in the community, we must expand beyond it, beyond local heroes and provincial prophets and link ourselves with issues and struggles of larger social pur¬pose involving all progressive people. Our hope remains in the masses—not manipulated, but in politically conscious and com¬mitted movement. They must be mobilized, organized and nationalized and kept in mo¬tion, for it is people in motion and blocked in that motion that revolt and ultimately make revolu¬tion.

Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor and Chair of Africana Studies, California State University-Long Beach; Executive Director, African American Cultural Center (Us); Creator of Kwanzaa; and author of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture and Introduction to Black Studies, 4th Edition,;


Dr. Maulana Karenga

Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor and Chair of Africana Studies, California State University-Long Beach; Executive Director, African American Cultural Center (Us); Creator of Kwanzaa; and author of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture, The Message and Meaning of Kwanzaa: Bringing Good Into the World and Essays on Struggle: Position and Analysis,;;