In post colonial Africa, Tanzanian President Mwalimu Dr. Julius Nyerere introduced the idea of “Ujamaa” to his land, drawing from the wisdom of his African tradition. This communalist socio-economic system that literally stands for “togetherness” or “as family”, sought to pool together all available resources – natural and otherwise - of the impoverished country, line them up, and match them with the proficiencies available for optimum mutual benefit. Nyerere bore in mind the ravages of colonization on his people, their level of literacy, an unfocused mentality, and the lack of purpose among the citizenry. He believed that by organizing them into a communalist society, a new environment would be afforded to all for the highest and best use. And it worked. For in the unity, there was strength which translated into development. In principle, at least.
Just over a decade ago, in countless discussions and conversations with fellow pastor Kermit Williams, Rev. Gene C. Bradford observed that African Americans lacked economic power, lived a lower standard of social existence, experienced higher murder rates, were underserved when it came to health, were more likely to be unemployed and incarcerated, and basically seemed hopeless. Williams and Bradford also observed that this group, collectively, has an economy that is among the world’s largest – albeit as consumers. And yet, their standard of living does not correspond to this latent power. And yet, these people profess to be church-going, hymn-singing, aisle-running, tongue-speaking Christians.
By carefully delving into the Holy book, they confirmed that Jesus teaches mankind how to rise above indigence. God shows mankind that He has a plan for every creature to reach their best. Jesus’ teachings explain that all one needs to do is line up one’s thinking with God’s purpose, go into action, and God takes charge. They therefore concluded that spiritual growth without economic empowerment was inconsistent.
Based on the teachings of Christ, they developed the concept of “Empowernomics” which identifies the fact that spiritual empowerment should be amenable to a mindset transformation towards making personal choices and actions that would enable us to have independent power in all aspects of life, including economics. They wanted this new way of thinking, Empowernomics, to link man’s belief and faith in God to the choices they have to make in life to produce the outcomes that are consistent with the purpose of God.
Even as we speak, African Americans, most of them professing to be Christians, still wallow in this degrading state of economic affairs and tend to lack political clout mainly because they have not realized - or have not been encouraged to understand - that at the very core of true freedom and power is Empowernomics which explains that the greatest economic assets are the kingdom virtues of love, unity, mutual respect and mutual support. In the absence of these, a people have no faith, nor trust, and thus no power.
The conditions that inspired Nyerere to espouse “Ujamaa” over fifty years ago far away in East Africa are probably even more prevalent here today in the United States of America especially among people of African descent. Empowernomics, a scripture-based “Ujamaa”, offers the most original, yet commonsense and seemingly obvious, mindset that stands a chance of liberating a race, a community, families and all individuals that are impoverished or are in need of fulfillment and increase through the active involvement and guidance of Christ.