Back in 1968, three years before Black-controlled Johnson’s Products Company, the then leader of Black hair care, co-sponsored the syndication of Black-controlled Don Cornelius Productions Soul Train, Dr. El Senzengakulu Zulu founded Ujamaa School, an independent Afrikan School in Washington, DC. On Sunday, April 28, the school will celebrate its fifty-first birthday.
All six of the former Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organizer’s biological children have taught at the school. One of them, Akina Zulu, still teaches high school English and literature at Ujamaa. “I would like for her to continue the school, but I don’t plan to retire,” says Zulu. “There is no retirement for a freedom fighter or liberator,” he continued.
Ujamaa bills itself as an educational center with Pan-Africanism and nationalism in the core of its foundation. Students at the school learn, for instance, that Egypt is not in the Middle East, but in Africa. That obvious change in perspective “makes them more critical thinkers as they learn more about their being African people,” added Zulu.
As the charter school movement took hold and promised as a new source of funding, Zulu never gave becoming a charter school a thought. “We want to remain self-reliant and teach from an African perspective including that all our children are all our children,” he further explained the school’s motivating perspective.