Ujamaa Place is an organization focused on young African American men in Saint Paul (primarily between the ages of 17 and 28), many of whom suffer multiple barriers to becoming stable, productive members of the community. These barriers include being undereducated, unemployed and/or unemployable, affiliated with gangs, a criminal history, homelessness, drug use, and a general marginalization by greater society.
In 2009, a group of leaders in the St. Paul African American community, including then St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington [rt.], Executive Director of the St. Paul YWCA Billy Collins, then St. Paul City Council Member Melvin Carter III, Thad Wilderson M.A. Ed. LP, Mary K. Boyd from St. Paul Public Schools, the NAACP, and several members of the Black Ministerial Alliance and the Council on Black Minnesotans identified that programming for this population was a significant gap in the social service delivery system in St. Paul, and needed immediate attention. Without intervention from a program like Ujamaa Place, this will be a “lost generation” of young men who die at a young age or are incarcerated for most of their lives.
After several months engaging additional key community leaders in development and planning for the organization, and securing early start-up funding from The Saint Paul Foundation and F.R. Bigelow Foundation, Ujamaa Place received 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in April 2010, and opened its doors at 1885 University Avenue in St. Paul in January 2011.
The mission of Ujamaa Place is to assist young African American men primarily between the ages of 17 and 28, who are economically disadvantaged and have experienced repeated cycles of failure. This mission statement is rooted in the philosophy of African American culture and empowerment – that everyone is important, valuable, worthy, and loveable.
How We Work
Ujamaa Place programming is made available at no direct cost to participants, but it is a program that demands mutual accountability. It helps men develop the skills it takes to be a successful individual, father, employee, and citizen.
Trained coaches develop high-context relationships that meet participants where they’re at, rather than applying a prescribed approach to all. Coaches have often overcome similar obstacles in their own lives, providing inspiration and models of empowerment for participants. Here is a more detailed description of what men do at Ujamaa Place.
To graduate from the program, a Ujamaa Place participant must demonstrate job skills, empowerment skills and life skills through the following:
- Completion of his GED
- Demonstrated use of Empowerment Skills in his daily life
- Remained drug free
- No recent criminal offenses
- Secured stable housing
- Held job for a minimum of three months
Ujamaa Place is not a holding place, but a place of new beginnings and transition. Graduates continue to successfully hold jobs and are enrolled in job training programs in which they gain the skills necessary to secure high skill jobs with benefits.
UJAMAA PLACE PROGRAM: LEVERS KEY TO MEN’S SUCCESS
Ujamaa Place is pleased to partner with the following organizations: