A few mornings ago, as I thought about current local affairs, a map of the Virgin Islands popped into my mind with the words “We the people” on the back. I started seeing lines drawn on the paper with the labels “gender, race, nationality, income, island, district, politics” and “age.” I took scissors and started cutting the paper along the lines. And as I gathered up the pieces of paper, these thoughts came to mind.

In every community we will not always agree on everything, but if we are not careful the difference of opinions can cause us to lose sight of the big picture because we believe our perspective is right. I don’t think that disagreeing is the problem. The issue is we argue instead of debating solutions that we can agree on.

As I cut the paper, I felt the social tensions currently dividing us and felt sad because when the dust settles, we are only as strong as the smallest piece. My question to us today is, “How do we move from the chaos to a state of calm?” And my answer is simple: We must get back to our roots.

 

Umbutu

We must go back to our African roots and learn umbutu, the concept that “I am because we are.” That is at the foundation of the community in which our foreparents grew up. The villages laughed and cried together; we built each other’s homes; we raised our each other’s children and bartered with each other for survival. In other words: “Your success is my success.” When we moved away from this value system based on love, humility, respect and integrity, we lost our way.

As we celebrate our freedom from slavery, let’s hit reset in our minds and remind ourselves of who we are and from whence we came. As Marcus Garvey put it, “A people without knowledge of their history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” And trees without roots eventually die. We must go back to living these values out and focus on leaving our territory better for future generations to thrive in and not just survive.


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