The Rev. Dr. Earle J. Fisher spoke Tuesday (December 26) as the Shelby County Commission's Legislative Black Caucus hosted a celebration of the Kwanzaa principle of Umoja (unity) at the Kukutana African American History and Cultural Museum at 1036 Firestone Ave. (Photo: William Weeks/The Tri-State Defender)

by Rev. Dr. Earle J. Fisher — 

On the cusp of a new year, Memphis is layered with expectations and possibilities. The city, with its diverse social tapestry and rich political history, is presented with a peculiar opportunity to redefine progress and prosperity.

Myriad broken promises and failed policies have marked the last several years. Despite the allure of tough talk, we’ve been unable to get a firm grasp on crime, violence, despair and apathy.

Do-better resolutions tend to usher in the new year. God knows Memphis could use some, particularly in regard to its need for concrete, conscientious, creative and courageous leadership from every angle and sector of our society.

The incoming group of elected officials has a chance to steer Memphis into a place of promise, and they must do so with a higher level of honesty and accountability, as well as a deeper commitment to Black consciousness and collaboration.

In this transformative journey, the Kwanzaa principles of Umoja (unity), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith) offer us guiding lights. We need to incorporate these principles into public policy and call forth the best practices we can produce in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.

Embracing Umoja for a Unified Memphis

At the heart of any progressive community lies unity. Umoja beckons us to come together, to hold each other up and to walk in solidarity. Our new elected officials carry the responsibility of inspiring the city toward a more unified tomorrow.

In a city steeped in history, culture and diversity, unity means actively listening to all voices, understanding different perspectives, and working together toward common goals. It involves building bridges between communities and ensuring that no one is left behind. The fabric of Memphis is woven with varied experiences. Our leaders must prioritize inclusivity, be the vessels of empathy, and set the stage for meaningful collaboration.

Unity is entwined with accountability. For Memphis to flourish, the community must stay engaged and involved to ensure our elected representatives are working with unwavering commitment toward the common good. This entails transparency in governance, active community engagement and a resolute stance against systemic disparities that perpetuate division and inequality.

Cultivating Kuumba for Creative Progress

Memphis, an incubator of creativity and resilience, historically has been a city that thrives on innovation. The Kwanzaa principle of Kuumba (creativity) offers us a framework for progress with its call for a fearless pursuit of new solutions and tireless innovation.

Our elected officials have the profound task of nurturing an environment where creativity is cherished and actively encouraged. This involves investing in arts education, supporting local creatives and entrepreneurs, and reimagining city infrastructure to accommodate innovative ideas. By embracing Memphis’ rich tapestry, we open doors to unconventional solutions and forward-thinking strategies.

Embracing Kuumba also means challenging the status quo and advocating for change that uplifts the entire community. It asks for a break from convention, welcoming fresh perspectives, and embracing creative problem-solving that can usher in meaningful change.

Upholding Imani for a Promising Future

The road to progress is laden with hurdles. Through them all, an unyielding faith in a promising future is essential. Imani, the principle of faith, calls for unwavering commitment to justice, equity and the well-being of all citizens.

As Memphis strides into the future, our community leaders and stakeholders must embody resolute faith in our collective ability to effect change. It is the faith in community-driven initiatives, the potential for reform, and the pursuit of an inclusive and equitable Memphis where every resident can thrive.

Upholding Imani means standing firm in the belief that Memphis is capable of transformation, and that the goodwill and faith of its people can bring about lasting change.

By embracing the Kwanzaa principles of Umoja, Kuumba and Imani, we can forge a Memphis that stands as a beacon of promise, possibility and progress. The strength of our city rests in unity, the power of creativity and the unwavering faith in a future where all Memphians can thrive.

(The Rev. Earle J. Fisher, Ph.D. is the senior pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church (Memphis), executive director of Abyssinian Community Services Inc. (ACSI), and founder of UPTheVote901.)