The current alarmingly rising incidences of deadly gun violence in the City of Philadelphia is painfully reminiscent of rampant gun violence that extinguished lives throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s. Five decades ago, bloody and deadly gang violence played out in Philadelphia’s neighborhood streets and school yards. Building on the knowledge of the past – a past replete with collaborative, holistic, and African-centered solutions – the House of Umoja, Inc. and incarcerated souls at Pennsylvania’s prisons collaborated for a period of two years to bring together warring gang leaders throughout the City of Philadelphia. Incarcerated souls in Pennsylvania prisons planned a peace conference which the city’s gang leaders attended and even selected the date on which it would be convened – 1 January 1974. The 12-hour peace conference which was divided into three sessions commenced at 10:00 A.M. and concluded at 10:00 P.M. The first session facilitated by Queen Mother Falaka Fattah provided gang leaders with a history lesson – 100 years of lynching, the Middle Passage, slavery, and how African Americans were currently dying. During the second session, facilitated by Mr. David Fattah who served as the peace conference’s negotiator, gang leaders were encouraged to ask themselves whether they knew what they were fighting for and why. A Town Hall comprised the peace conference’s third session which ended with Mr. Fattah asking “Why not try peace?” and presenting the Imani Peace Pact™ to gang leaders. The Imani Peace Pact™ which Mr. Fattah authored was signed by the gang leaders on 1 January 1974. It was an act that ended decades of violent and deadly gang violence. Signatories of the Imani Peace Pact™ continue to honor the commitment they made to nonviolence 46 years ago. The Imani Peace Pact™, now known as the Imani Peace Pledge™, constitutes a timeless Global Model for conflict resolution and ending gun violence.
House of Umoja, Inc. — Continuing To Build On Knowledge Of The Past
Let’s take a look at how the House of Umoja, Inc. has continued to build upon the knowledge of the past.
February 2020 – Fathers Literacy Initiative: Mindful of the African proverb which states “The Child who is note embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth,” to prevent children from feeling unembraced by the village due to the consistent absence of Fathers in their life, the House of Umoja, Inc. designed the “Fathers Literacy Initiative”. The initiative helps Fathers who are unable to be physically present in their child’s life on a consistent basis – Incarcerated Fathers, Homeless Fathers, Military Fathers, and NonCustodial Fathers – establish a presence in their child’s life by engaging them in reading a book together. Incarcerated Fathers, Military Fathers Homeless Fathers, and NonCustodial Fathers participating in the Fathers Literacy Project will develop a strong bond and relationship with their child; help improve their child’s literacy skills and academic performance; and ultimately, deter their child from being caught up in the “school-to-prison” pipeline.
March 2020 – A Call For Compassion In Response To COVID-19: The House of Umoja, Inc. joined humanitarian organizations and key community stakeholders issued a “Call For Compassion” supporting the release of nonviolent offenders who are currently housed in correctional institutions as a means of protecting souls most susceptible to contracting and succumbing to COVID-19 Pandemic – Men, Women, and juveniles who are nonviolent offenders, would not create public safety issues for the communities they will be returned to, and who are being detained simply because they do not have the financial means to pay their bail.
2020 National Million Father March and The Fathers Literacy Initiative. In 2007, when the late Mr. Phillip Jackson, founder of the National Million Father March (www.blackstarproject.org; www.millionfathersmarch.com) headquartered at the time in Chicago, Illinois, saw the need to have Fathers in Philadelphia join Fathers in hundreds of American cities to take a proactive role in their children’s education, without hesitation, he called on the House of Umoja, Inc. Since 2007, the House of Umoja, Inc. has served as the City of Philadelphia’s leader and organizer for the National Million Father March – a leadership position it continues to hold. The House of Umoja, Inc. encourages Fathers to become proactively involved in their child’s education at the beginning and throughout the academic year. In 2020, under the leadership of the House of Umoja, Inc., the National Million Father March in Philadelphia is placing an intense focus on the academic performance of 4th graders – particularly, their literacy skills – throughout the 2020-2021 academic year which began on Wednesday, 2 September 2020, courtesy of the Fathers Literacy Project. Designed and facilitated by the House of Umoja, Inc., the Fathers, Literacy Project serves as the conduit for improving the literacy skills of 4th Graders throughout the School District of Philadelphia
2008 – “Think Green Peace” Campaign: A brainchild of the House of Umoja, Inc., the three-tiered “Think Green Peace” Campaign transformed vacant lots into peace gardens that was both a source of beauty and food for communities surrounding it. The peace gardens yielded beautifully hued and fragrant flowers and produced vegetables which addressed hunger and the need for healthy diets. A small deep hole exists at the edge of the peace gardens. It is where members of the communities bury their grief, anger, and sadness. The source of grief, anger or sadness is written about on biodegradable napkins or paper by members of the community which they bring to the peace gardens. During a brief ceremony that is performed, members of the community place the paper or biodegradable napkin that bears their grief, anger, or sadness in the small and deep hole that lies at the edge of the peace garden. The hole is then covered with their dirt. Having buried their grief, anger, and sadness in the peace garden, members of the community return to their homes – relieved of their burden. Youths, adults, and the business community engaged in preparing the vacant lots for planting in the Carroll Park section of West Philadelphia. The First Philadelphia Collard Green Cultural Festival which occurred in July 2008 also constituted one of the many components of the “Think Green Peace” Campaign.
2006 – The Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign: Moving Children To Commit To Nonviolence And Bringing Peace To A City. The surge in violence and gun-related homicides throughout Calendar Year 2005 moved the House of Umoja, Inc. to respond by building on its knowledge from the past. On Sunday, 1 January 2006 – on New Year’s Day – and on Imani which is Swahili for the word “faith” – the last day of Kwanzaa, the House Of Umoja, Inc. launched its Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign with the convening of the 2006 Stay Alive IMANI Youth Anti-Violence Conference at Pinn Memorial Baptist Church (http://www.pinnmemorial.org) in Philadelphia’s Wynnefield section from 1:00 P.M. through 5:00 P.M. Legislators, parents, grassroots community organizations, Fatherhood Practitioners, the electronic and print media, students from the School District of Philadelphia, educators, social entrepreneurs, and concerned community members attended the conference.
By the end of the first quarter of Calendar Year 2006, the House of Umoja, Inc. established a Steering Committee for its Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign. Individuals with diverse talents comprised the Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign Steering Committee and helped the House Of Umoja, Inc. create and implement initiatives designed to move children in the City of Philadelphia to commit to peace. The House Of Umoja, Inc. established “Partnerships For Peace” with the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Atwater-Kent Museum, Keepers of the Culture Storytellers, and the print and electronic media which included Radio Station WXPN. Major Philadelphia newspapers – The Philadelphia Daily News, The Philadelphia Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Weekly — published an article and the full text of the Imani Peace Pledge ™ which was based on the Imani Peace Pact™, a document crafted by the late Mr. David Fattah of the House of Umoja, Inc. that gang leaders in Philadelphia signed on 1 January 1974. The Imani Peace Pledge™ was published alongside the article in Philadelphia’s major newspapers during the week of 10-14 April 2006 – the Spring vacation for the School District of Philadelphia. Students in Philadelphia’s schools would have access to and time to read the newspapers – particularly the article concerning the Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign and the full text of the Imani Peace Pledge™. Why have the full text of the Imani Peace Pledge™ published in the newspapers? Publishing the full text of the Imani Peace Pledge™ in the newspapers that children and youth would not only read, but also sign, would give the youth and children in the City of Philadelphia an opportunity to take an active role in bringing peace to their schools, neighborhoods, and their city. Over 800 children and youth who lived and attended schools in the Greater Philadelphia area and had read the newspapers during the week of 10-14 April 2006, signed the Imani Peace Pledge™ and mailed their signed Pledges to the House Of Umoja, Inc. The strategy developed by the House Of Umoja, Inc. under the umbrella of the Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign was working!
As the Imani Peace Pledge™ continued to capture the attention and imagination of children and youth throughout the City Of Philadelphia during the Spring of 2006, the House Of Umoja, Inc. created a Student Non-Violence Poster Competition in which students from Philadelphia’s middle and high schools participated. The students were asked to create posters that symbolized one of the following themes: Non-Violence, Peace In The Hood, Family Harmony, and The Greatness Of Our African-American Heritage. They were also asked to sign the Imani Peace Pledge™ and submit the signed Pledge along with their artwork to The House Of Umoja, Inc. Three works of arts were selected for cash prizes and an additional four works of art received honorable mention. All of the artwork submitted by the students became a component of a traveling exhibit displayed on 10 September 2006 at the Penn Cinema in Philadelphia at an “Artist Reception” that preceded the premiere of “I Come In Peace”, a play written by students.
The House Of Umoja, Inc.’s efforts to move a new generation of children in the City of Philadelphia to commit to nonviolence did not escape the attention of the city’s Mayor. The Honorable John F. Street, Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, issued a proclamation which declared the week of 15-20 May 2006 as “Faith Of Our Fathers Week” throughout Philadelphia. During “Faith Of Our Fathers Week”, an illuminated sign perched atop a Center City Philadelphia skyscraper which housed the Philadelphia Electric Company carried a special message: “Sign The Imani Peace Pledge(TM)”! Members of Men Making A Difference held its Day Of Community Service at the House Of Umoja, Inc. on Saturday, 20 May 2006 which took the form of “cleaning up and fixing up the block” while WURD 900 AM Radio held a live broadcast at the House Of Umoja, Inc. for several hours during which it conducted a “Radiothon” fundraiser for the organization. The artwork submitted by students throughout the City of Philadelphia who participated in the Student Non-Violence Poster Competition were displayed; live entertainment and refreshments were provided for the neighborhood, members of community organizations and invited guests; and face painting and a moon bounce were provided for the children.
The House Of Umoja, Inc.’s efforts to move the children and youth of the City of Philadelphia to commit to peace was punctuated in the beginning of the last quarter of 2006 by the premiere of a play, “I Come In Peace”, on 10 September 2006 at Cinema at Penn in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The play was the product of the House Of Umoja, Inc.’s Summer 2006 Career Exploration Program and a celebration of the House Of Umoja, Inc.’s “Peace In the Hood” Campaign To Stop The Violence. The youthful performers and collaborators who staged works about Violence and Peace Initiatives on 10 September 2006 at Cinema at Penn — Marquis Blackston, Anton Cochran, Terrell Edwards, David Morris, Deneisha Overby, Jerome Rorie, Jabril Ward, and Shaun White –also participated in the House Of Umoja, Inc.’s Summer 2006 Career Exploration Program.
So, how effective were the violence prevention and peace promotion activities provided by The House Of Umoja, Inc. in schools in the City of Philadelphia which took the form of, among other things, workshops, and assemblies? The School District Of Philadelphia’s Evaluation Report contained the following excerpted data which reflects a decrease in serious incidents from the 2004-2005 Academic Year through the 2005-2006 Academic Year for the following schools which received service from the House of Umoja, Inc.:
Bluford Elementary School: The number of serious incidents decreased by 41% in serious incidents.
Overbrook High School: The number of serious incidents decreased from 202 to 135, reflecting a 33% decrease in serious incidents.
Powell Elementary School: The number of serious incidents decreased by 25%.
Barry (Shoemaker) Middle School: The number of serious incidents decreased from 84 to 59, reflecting a 30% decrease in serious incidents.
The House Of Umoja, Inc. At 52 — An Eye On The Future
Having spent half of a century creating Global Models for eradicating violence, fostering community development, creating economic and environmental sustainability by utilizing knowledge from the past, the House of Umoja, Inc. is being looked upon as an institute of learning and a shaper of the future by key community stakeholders and global citizens. At 52, the House of Umoja, Inc. is vibrant and has its eye on the future – the future of the City of Philadelphia and its citizens. What’s next for the House of Umoja, Inc.?
The House Of Umoja Lifelong Learning Campus – Aquaponics, aviation technology, and coding are a sample, of course, offerings that this institute will offer to students of all ages – particularly, children and youths. Training that provides skills to initiate and develop businesses that serve the needs of the future along with instruction in hydroponic technology that will be implemented to grow vegetables and fish and coding to develop apps and other technological programs for use in today’s and tomorrow’s world will also await students of all ages. The institute will provide cultural enrichment, urban farming programs, entrepreneurial skills training, and prepare community members to successfully navigate the Millennium’s global workplace and provide the community with violence prevention resources.
Urban Agriculture – What will Urban Agriculture look like at the House Of Umoja Lifelong Learning Campus? Provided below are an overview of its components:
Community Farm and Garden Market
Greenhouse Soil Farming/Propogation
Composting Vermiculture and Soil Remediation
Rainwater Collection and Green Roofing
Native Tree Planting
Classrooms and Laboratories
The House of Umoja Lifelong Learning Campus will also offer mixed-used office features
Jobs and Administration
Creative spaces for young artists and entrepreneurs
Trauma resources and support for families
Event space for local entertainment, “meet and greets”, and youth programs
Coding and app development-focused after school program
Security Institute (International Rescue Cities)
For the House of Umoja, Inc. and the City of Philadelphia and its citizens, the best is yet to come!
To learn more about the House of Umoja, Inc. and how you can join the House of Umoja, Inc. in co-creating the future, contact Queen Mother Falaka Fattah by calling (215) 473-5893 or by sending an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, visit the institution’s website at www.houseofumoja.net.
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