The Umoja Center

May 2019

Crenshaw Subway Coalition is excited to announce our new home and our first physical headquarters: The Umoja Center.

Few things are more fundamental to the Black community than having a Black community. Put another way, there is no “Black Los Angeles” if Black people have been priced out and pushed out to the deserts of Palmdale, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, or worse. The gentrification crisis that is faced in urban cities throughout the world is particularly acute for Black communities in the Los Angeles region. Thus, building on our local, statewide and national work in 2017 and 2018, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition is doubling-down our efforts to combat the gentrification beast by taking an important step in establishing our first physical headquarters. And in thinking of location to call home for Crenshaw Subway Coalition, what better place than the center of the region's Black community and location of one of our organization's greatest wins, Crenshaw's Leimert Park Village.

Named after the Swahili word meaning "unity," umoja is the first principle of the Nguzo Saba and it is celebrated across the African diaspora on the first day of Kwanzaa. Housed in the building made famous by Issa Rae's hit HBO show, Insecure, The Umoja Center is a home for Crenshaw Subway Coalition to operate our many programs and advocacy campaigns, host our meetings, and more intentionally work towards connecting our Crenshaw community specifically and local Black community generally to the global struggle for justice.

We’re not just establishing a physical headquarters, as noble and necessary as that may be. Given: a) the needs of the Black community, b) the importance of the geographic location in the center of Black consciousness and culture in the region that is the entertainment capital of the world, and c) and the cultural institutions that previously occupied the space (including Jackie Ryan’s Zambezi’s Bazaar and James Burks' African Marketplace & Festival), we feel an obligation to continue building on the foundation that has been laid. Thus, in addition to being a powerful center to resist gentrification and advance community wealth building, The Umoja Center will be an unapologetically Black, culturally-grounded meeting/event space for mission-aligned organizations, activists, thought leaders, artists, creatives and entrepreneurs to advance organizing, policy discussions and organizing, cooperative economics/social entrepreneurship, and artivism.

In 2019, the 400th year we commemorate our ancestors being stolen from our native land and brought to these stolen lands, our assessment is that the conscious, passionate and brilliant activists, organizers, entrepreneurs, artists and community-grounded organizations that seek to maintain and advance Black Los Angeles, and many like it across the country, can and must be more intentional about coming together to tackle the gentrification tsunami and other critical issues that the community faces. We hope that The Umoja Center can help facilitate that.

It is at The Umoja Center that meetings of the local of the Los Angeles Tenants Union and tenant legal clinic will be held. It is in our space that we will help build the national alliance/network of Black groups to resist gentrification to advance policy, share resources and learn from successes and challenges. It is in our space that we will host workshops to help entrepreneurs establish worker-owned cooperatives, host important town halls, invite authors of important works, welcome revolutionary artists, screen and discuss conscious movies, and from time to time simply celebrate the struggle by turning on a little music.

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