Kujichagulia (Self Determination)
August Wilson’s play, “Two Trains Running” is my favorite play by him. It is mostly a drama about self-determination and the ongoing freedom struggle for African American people.
Wilson’s play is set in Pittsburgh in the African American community in 1968. It is post-industrialization and suburbanization and the community is in economic decline.
The characters interact with one another and set forth Black America’s politics through their conversations. Hence, the name — “Two Trains Running.” Should we integrate/assimilate or build our own? A story is told but we are also told many other things.
Wilson is trying to tell you: there are many political strains that dominate African American politics and two of them seem to dominate — assimilation and self-determination. Martin Luther King Jr. and/or Malcolm X. This tradition links back to W.E.B DuBois v. Booker T Washington as well.
This political struggle within the African American community remains an albatross today on a certain level. The either/or choice creates tension. It should not if you were to ask Wilson.
Most African Americans only vaguely can recognize the various strains at work now. The assimilationist wing has mostly decided to vote as a bloc for Democrats.
The self-determination wing has few options for coherent politics. Many organize on their own. Some are involved with the Republican Party. Some just keep their options open and observe.
Yet, as Wilson suggested there are always two trains running. Struggle on all fronts is his message. The goal ultimately is self-determination. You can do both and/or all of them.
These are the teachings of Day 2 of Kwanzaa. Kujichagulia. To many, it is the guiding principle of the seven-day festival. It is what Nguzo Saba is all about.