This past Saturday stopped by the Ujamaa Collective’s Community Cook-Out being held on Francis off of Bedford and got a chance to see longtime artists Bro. Tony Mitchell and Iya Bea Mitchell holding it down on the djun-djun and djembe, respectively. Also recognized on the djembe, Bro Shabaka Perkins of Point Breeze’s Sankofa Village. Ujamaa Collective’s Executive Director, Lakeisha Wolf was getting her African dance groove on as was one of Ujamaa’s Founders, Celeta Hickman. Also spoke with Mama Kadiatou of the African dance company, Balafon and Erin Perry of the Legacy Arts Project (I work with Balafon and Legacy Arts in my capacity as a Program Officer at The Heinz Endowments, but I do not write this blog representing the foundation) who also stepped out and showed a few steps as a master dancer from Guinea. Maybe most nourishing was seeing the youth and children excited to dance with friends and teachers simply for the joy of it.
Celeta took me up to see the garden where zucchini, peppers and lemongrass are being harvested and talked of the challenges they have had with deer jumping the fence that protects their crops, but how a little straw can serve as a good foil for these four legged friends. She also talked of how they have had to stop other municipalities from dumping on this property and the help they received from Councilman Lavelle in this regard. Located on 1901 Centre Ave, the Ujamaa Collective is a non-profit organization of women of African descent who are entrepreneurs, artisans, artists and individuals who are committed to serving their community through leadership. In the birthplace of August Wilson and Rob Penny (love, light and progress to their sprits), it was nice to see an event, organization, artists and community members connected to one another by intentionally living African culture in the Hill District. That Ujamaa has ideas about how this culture connects to larger questions of redeveloping the community through urban gardening, entrepreneurs and the organizing of women of African descent makes it all the better.