March is Women’s History Month. It is also the month we at Woodlawn have set aside to reflect on the virtue of Reciprocity. We will make special efforts to celebrate ALL Women – our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters. Why should we celebrate all women? Think about all the gifts that you have received from your mother. Which is the most important? Your birth? Nurture? Love? It is almost too difficult to decide isn’t it? Do you think we can ever repay our mothers for what they have done for us? Can we even think of how much that payback will cost? Is it possible to calculate it? How and where do we begin?

Since the beginning of time, our mothers have been our source of comfort and nurture. During the dark days of enslavement, mothers were always ready to protect us. Some would rather kill their children and themselves rather than send them off to be enslaved. Yet these stories are not well known. Mothers silently carried their stories of pain in songs and in their hearts. We need to know those stories. There must be something we can do to celebrate mothers’ stories. Everyone should learn more about women’s contributions to the world. We should learn about heroic women like Hashepsut, the female pharaoh of Kemet; Queen Nzinga, Yaa Asantewaa, who led an army against the British in Asante. Most importantly, we should not support rappers who degrade our women. Never! Rappers who disrespect our women should not benefit from abusing women in songs. We should not buy their records at all. Our mothers deserve more respect than to be abused in videos. Do your part, boys. Don’t disrespect our young women! Promise never to hit a girl. Ever. That will be a small but very important step towards “doing reciprocity” and rebuilding our village.

Reciprocity is more than a simple give and take or tit-for-tat. The people of Kemet understood that the quality of exchange was more important than the quantity of what was being exchanged. This understanding meant that everyone was responsible for creating a strong partnership in the community. Everyone was responsible for the emotional, material, and spiritual well-being of all adults, children, and the extended family, friends, the community, and elders.

Reciprocity was also understood to mean being accountable for our intentional or unintentional actions that cause harm to other people or the environment. We are responsible for restoring lost order, balance, harmony and for providing compensation. Reciprocity also meant aspiring to giving and serving while at the same time expecting to receive what was “good.” This was the greatest gift of all that anyone could offer in order to achieve Ma’at. The qualities of Reciprocity thus include accountability and gratitude. So, let us show our gratitude to all mothers. This is the Virtue of Reciprocity at work. We must respect ALL women. Stop the abuse of women.

The Nguzo Saba for the month is Ujima or collective work and responsibility. We are all responsible for maintaining all the virtues, especially Reciprocity. Together we CAN make a difference in our community and the world. Start small and build on each effort everyday. Yes, we must have faith in ourselves, in our teachers and parents, and especially in our leaders. You must resolve to have a strong and unshakable faith in yourself and the inherent goodness of others. Believe in yourself and the righteousness of our struggle to “emancipate ourselves from mental slavery.” Together we can achieve our goals. Asante Sana! Hotep!