One of the goals of the Ujima Center is to provide educational forums for the surrounding community. One of the first such forums is the Renters Rights and Responsibilities Workshops held at the Center every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
This workshop covers a variety of topics that are of interest to tenants, including leasing, evictions, security deposits, repairs, utilities, lead paint, housing discrimination and change of ownership due to foreclosure or sale. During the session participants are given an overview of information and then encouraged to identify their problems and discuss solutions. Each workshop provides a detailed description of the eviction process and the related issues such as licensing, certificates of rental suitability, lead safe certificates, and rent abatement. Participants also discuss how to request repairs and steps that can be taken when repairs are not done. We explain the risks of withholding rent and what to do in the event of an illegal lockout.
The Center is doing the program in partnership with TURN, a city-wide tenant service and advocacy organization the helps thousands of tenants each year.
A Time to Reflect on the life and ministry of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On Sunday, January 14th, the Peace Center had a time of worship sharing regarding the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Following King’s example, several reflected on questions of leadership and calling, both personally and as a community. We wondered aloud how are we to know where the Spirit is leading us in these challenging times. We were inspired by the courageous words of faith spoken by King about his life’s journey. During the Mountaintop Speech, which he gave the day before his assassination in 1968, King said:
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
We concluded with a circle of song about overcoming and then shared a delicious simple meal of rice and beans.
The Spirit of God continues to bless Ujima Friends Peace Center as a ministry of FOFAD. In October when we had our first Grocery Give Away we fed over 50 families. In November we fed 70 families, Last week we fed nearly 80 families. This represents providing groceries to nearly 1000 people in North Philadelphia in just three months. Praise God!
Ujima Friends also had a really successful Community Open House with several community organizations, who were recognized for their work. We are now scheduled to meet again with these community organizations and coordinate our efforts to improve conditions within this special historic black community. In November, we hosted a meeting of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women as well as Baltimore Yearly Meeting STRIDE organization which is making an outward bound youth development experience available for more children of color. We give thanks for the work of our Sister Dyresha for bringing STRIDE to Ujima. Best of all, we continue to worship together in the Black community every Sunday at 2:00 pm. What’s most exciting is that we now officially have 20 people who have officially joined Ujima Friends worship community as members and have committed themselves to the work of the center. Of these 6 count Ujima as their primary worship community. We really are growing and sharing the Quaker experience in among our people. If you are in the Philadelphia area, Ujima Friends is hosting a Kwanzaa celebration on the evening of what else? UJIMA, December 28, 2017 at 6:00 pm. At the Ujima Friends Peace Center. We ask that friends bring a dessert or their favorite dish. We also hope that friends will bring poetry, stories, and their talents to share.
Please remember that Ujima Friends Peace Center is a ministry of the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent. It is a manifestation of a commitment that we as a Fellowship made in the summer of 2016. It cost about $3500 monthly to operate. We are grateful to those who have become monthly contributors and are members even if from afar. Every little bit helps so please visit our website at www.ujimafriends.org and make a monthly contribution.
What a blessing the Peace Center continues to be. It has been wonderful to have Friends of African Descent drop in Ujima for worship when they are in Philadelphia. It has been absolutely awesome to worship with Fellowship members who serve in AFSC like our treasurer Paula Rhodes or Friends visiting Philadelphia, like Sis. Dyresha Harris. Sunday at 2:00 pm, you can always find us worshipping and planning our next community event. We have been blessed to have received a grant from the Friends Foundation on Aging, which will assist us in launching an intergeneration program using our Mpatapo Peace Works curriculum as the foundation for a project that will involve sharing between elders and youth involving arts, crafts, and computer skills. The project is called, With These Hands. We are set to launch this project in January.
We also are excited to announce that the Ujima Center has expanded to include the entire first floor. This means we will now be able to hold three times as many people and will be able to run our own summer program next year. Jump starting all of these programs will require that we hire staff for the center. It is with great joy that we announce the hiring of the Ujima Friends Peace Center, project director, Bro. Mai Spann-Wilson. Mai is a young man of great spiritual depth, who is skilled in conflict transformation and youth leadership development. He is an artist and motivational speaker who is also a grounded Quaker of African Descent. He is the son of our beloved member Niyonu Spann Wilson. We are excited about the work that Mai will do with folks in the community both youth and elders.
The Ujima Friends Peace Center has two upcoming events. On October 28, we will have a Neighborhood Grocery Give Away. It is our intention to provide bags of groceries for at least 50 families in our community. We also have a community outreach lunch scheduled for November 16th, at which time we will bring together leaders in our neighborhood and acknowledge what they have been doing, while introducing them to the FOFAD and the Ujima Friends Peace Center. Please hold these two events in the light. Finally, remember that the Ujima Friends Peace Center is a ministry of the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent. The Center is our space. We, friends of African Descent, put our money together monthly and pay the rent. We are grateful for FOFAD members who are supporting the Center and encourage each Fellowship member to make a monthly donation to keep the Ujima Friends Peace Center open as a place of worship for People of African descent and an oasis of peace and activism for members of the community. To donate and keep abreast of our activities please visit our website at www.ujimafriends.org.
The members of the Fellowship of African Descent had an amazing time at our Gathering in August. What a blessing to have had the opportunity to be inspired by the ministry of Sis. Regina Renee Ward, uplifted by the dedication of the Ujima Friends Peace Center, motivated by the panel on black Quaker activism, and touched by the report of our Friends who sojourned to Ghana. We were truly enriched by our time together.
It is so exciting to see the space that we worship in transformed by the energy of the young people. Yesterday was the first full day for the Peace Center Junior Servant Leaders.. Dasha Halkin from the yoga class and Mai Spann Wilson and Nia Imani modeled lessons to be taught to the Freedom School scholars this Thursday. How awesome to see these YBQ (Young Black Quakes) put their thing down in the community!!!! What an amazing day!
Servant Leaders are learning the Mpatapo Curriculum so that they can teach it to other young people in the Philadelphia Freedom School Network. Eventually 150 young people will be trained in peace making this summer.
The summer Ujima Friends Peace Center Freedom School has started.
The first major program initiative of the Peace Center is running a summer Freedom School Junior Servant Leader Peace Program that will engage 150 young people from k-12 in a summer of enhancing literacy, numeracy, social justice activism, and “Peace Works”. We are training a team of high school students who will use the Mpatapo Peace curriculum to build, make, keep, and extend peace in the individual, community, and the world.
Servant leaders have been trained at Cabrini College and they are ready to work with young people. The Ujima Friends JSL Peace Force will conduct a community research project that will do outreach to 1000 members of the North Philadelphia community to explore what programs members of the community would like to see in the new Ujima Friends Peace Center.
On June 1st, we moved into the Ujima Friends Peace Center with furniture donated by various members of the Fellowship. (Thank you Phil and Claudette Grimes and Phil Lord). Our first event was a meeting on Saturday June 10th of the Philadelphia Freedom School trainers in the morning and an amazing celebration of the 60th birthday of our beloved member “O-Love”. At the Philadelphia Freedom School meeting, we were able to roll out sample lessons from our Mpatapo: Peace Works curriculum – an African Centered Quaker curriculum designed to build, maintain, restore, and extend a peace that is rooted in love and in justice. The curriculum overview received rave reviews. We will conduct a fuller revelation of the curriculum during a three- day training involving 70 people at Cabrini University.
Our Freedom School youth program begins on July 10th at the Ujima Center with a team of high school students who will be trained to implement the Peace Works Curriculum to 150 elementary school scholars in Philly.
We are also rejoicing that the Racial Justice Committee of Germantown Monthly Meeting has donated $1000 to the work of Ujima Friends Peace Center. This brings total donations to $9457.00. (This includes donations and rental payments)
Based on guidance from the FOFAD continuing committee, the Ujima Friends Peace Center has incorporated as an independent non-profit and has filed for 501c3 status. We are also in the process of setting up a separate bank account for the work of the Center. This will allow us to accept donations directly and enable contributors to receive tax exemption for their contributions. For now, you can donate through the Fellowship’s website or can send checks to Ujima Friends Peace Center at 1701 Lehigh Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa. 19132.
Please remember that the Ujima Friends Peace Center is a ministry of the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent. It comes directly from the Minute that was passed at the August Gathering against State Sanctioned violence. It is what we hope will be the first of the Peace Centers but certainly not the last. We are reaching out for supports from every single member of the Fellowship. Presently, we have a link on the Fellowship’s website. It is our intention to establish a Ujima Friends Peace Center web page so that Friends can donate directly to the Center. Please continue to hold this ministry in the Light!
We are up and running! The Ujima Friends Peace Center had its first worship meeting with attention to business yesterday. It was a powerful and experience and an exciting beginning to the work we have to do. We discussed the Freedom School peace curriculum which we have developed and the freedom school activities for youth scheduled for this summer. The young people will be surveying the neighborhood to assess community resources and needs. We are also getting ready for our open house in August.
We plan to meet every Sunday at 2 p.m. at 1701 West Lehigh Avenue, Philadelphia, PA. Come join us if you can.