Women band together on entrepreneur venture

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In his 1966 number one Billboard top R and B single, “It’s a Man’s Man’s World”, the late soul singer James Brown sang, “This is a man’s world, but it would be nothing without a woman or a girl.”

The Ujamaa Collective, an organization of women of African descent is proving that point by practicing the fourth Nguzo Saba principal of Kwanzza (collective economics) through the operation of the Ujamaa Marketplace, an open-air market during the summer and now preparing for their fall and winter season at 1901 Centre Avenue.

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PROVIDING LEADERSHIP—Board members and representatives of Ujamaa Collective accepts their responsibility and gifts. Kwame Scott, Dr. Huberta Jackson-Lowman, K. Mensah Wali, Maria Griffy and Teri Baltimore. (Photos by Diane Daniels)

The market features crafts, handmade jewelry, environmentally friendly items, body care products, fresh produce and organic, gourmet, and international foods.

“I am pleased and excited to have the Ujamaa Collective and their market place located in my district. This is true economic empowerment,” said Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle.

“It is important to have our money circulating within the community.” Encouraging the women during their Harambee Harvest Program, he informed the members and newly appointed board of directors that his office is there to help and to provide necessary support.

A non-profit organization, the Ujamaa Marketplace is a project of the Ujamaa Collective, a Black women’s cooperative committed to green entrepreneurship and cooperative business innovation.

The Marketplace provides booths and tables to entrepreneurs in the early stages of their development to showcase their handmade wares, foods and goods. The primary objectives of the Collective are to cultivate business and community leadership with an African, principle-centered foundation; to be stewards of nature and life, promoting wellness and sustainability and to honor the creative work and artistic contributions of Diasporic African women by practicing fair trade.

Installation of its board of directors was the highlight of the Ujamaa Collective Harambee Harvest Program, the final outside event of the year. Board members include; Terri Baltimore, Maria Griffy, Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo, Huberta Jackson-Lowman, Evelyn King and Menasah Wali.

“The Ujamaa Collective is an interesting concept,” said Griffy. A strong supporter of entrepreneurship, Griffy who once owned Mitz Centre of Attraction located across from the Marketplace said, “This is a much needed project and I am excited to be a part of it.”

After a procession to the Ujamaa Market with drummers of the New World, Jackson-Lowman conducted the pouring of Libation and welcomed the board of directors. “This is a historical event,” she said indicating the importance of not forgetting how generations before us have laid the foundation. “Over 500 years ago our ancestors came as slaves, worked sun up to sun down and never got to benefit from the fruits of their labor. Now we are profiting.” She continued by saying that it is our time to continue the tradition by laying a foundation for those coming after us. “The women of the Ujamaa Collective are laying that groundwork.”

Based on African principals and heritage, the Hill District was chosen, according to Celeta Hickman, the Ujamma Collective originator as an ideal zone to conduct Ujamaa business in part based upon the historical legacy of entrepreneurship and successful business ownership by African-Americans.

Since its inception in 2008, the women of the Collective have hosted, partnered and supported over a dozen programs and exhibits in and around communities of Pittsburgh, which she feels has accumulated into thousands of hours in volunteer time, worth more than $31,000. Hickman identified a events as the Holistic Parenting Conference, the Youngstown African American Cultural Festival, the annual Black Family Reunion, the Homewood Brushton Community Festival, the Higher Grounds Community Garden Party and various other mobile festivals, the Soul-filled Holiday Bazaar, the Going Green Bazaar, the Kwanzaa Window Exhibit, the August Wilson Center and the Ujamaa Kwanzaa in the Hill District which they sponsor.

Held together by a core of women entrepreneurs, artisans, artists and community activists, members are; Hickman, Bekezela Mguni, Cordella “Kahila” Miller, Erin Perry, Gail “Maa-t” Manker, Geanita Smith, Kelly Parker, LaKeisha Wolf, Laverne Baker Hotep, Monifa Miller, Tenanche Rose Golden and Yejide KMT.

Since its inception, the group has developed a model designed to help incubate women owned businesses to bring them to scale in their entrepreneurial activities. Their years ending events will include collaboration with the EVE Project, Home for the Holidays: Healthy Cooking with Soul (Nov. 13), and their store grand opening and Bazaar on Black Friday (Nov. 26).

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