The third night of Kwanzaa, called Ujima, centers around a subject that is related to the collective work and responsibility of the community.
For Macon’s 23rd annual celebration of the holiday, the topic couldn’t have been more timely.
How should a community address violence?
Though the discussion group that attended the event Sunday night at the Ruth Hartley Mosley Women’s Center was relatively small, the discussion was very lively as participants dissected how problems of violence have come to be in Macon.
Participants said several factors have created the problem: children growing up in poverty, a lack of cultural identity, outside influences such as gangs and drugs, and broken homes were among those discussed as the most prevalent issues facing the black community.
Maat Tutsent Maat, who participated Sunday night, said young people need jobs to give them hope. She said she thinks that the older generation may not have done enough to prepare the current one for the challenges of today.
“We’ve gone a long time without leaving a legacy for our children,” she told the group. “We’ve done things like marches, but we haven’t built anything.”
Rudy Mendes, who works with the Kwanzaa Cultural Access Center in Macon, said he thinks that young people are generally impatient and don’t set enough long-term goals for themselves.
“They’re not making good choices,” he said.
Kwanzaa was first created as a celebration of African-American Heritage in 1966 by Maulana Karenga. But Michelle Fitz, treasurer of the Kwanzaa Cultural Access Center, said the holiday’s theme of community should resonate among all cultures.
“These are conversations we need to be having,” she said.
The discussion led to several ideas for solutions facing black youth today. Some offered ideas about how children need to learn more about their heritage, ranging from black history in Macon to even genetic testing, an idea that Maat has been involved with herself.
“Our history always stops at the slave story,” she said. “We need to be taking (children) past that.”
Other ideas included having strong black role models to help families in broken homes, and to start trying to reach children at the earliest possible age -- between kindergarten and fourth grade. As children grow into their teens and beyond, they become harder to reach, participants said.
Ultimately, everyone gathered agreed with the same basic principle, Fitz said.
“Everybody wants the same thing for our children,” she said. “We don’t want them to die in the streets.”
The Kwanzaa Festival will continue in Macon Monday with a job fair at the Frank Johnson Recreation Center, 2227 Mercer University Drive, from 2-6 p.m.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.