Umoja P.E.A.C.E.Center was created as a proactive response to the negative conditions existing in the African-American community that have provided fertile soil for anti-social behavior, juvenile delinquency, crime and violence.
In the fall of 2008 a group of community members in Seattle’s Central District joined forces to respond to growing economic and social issues that disproportionately effect disenfranchised African-American youth. Their response, bolstered by President Obama’s call to serve, was the creation of a community-based youth cultural center.
What began as Sunday work parties and BBQs to feed the volunteers turned into a significant effort focused on the transformation of two nuisance residential properties in the Central District into a space for educational and cultural events and activities. The Center has developed into a meeting point for young people and those engaged with creating a better future for the community.
Today, an audio recording studio, video production studio, learning room, computer lab and reading room serve youth and young adults with a variety of classes, workshops and a place to gather. The Center has cultivated a unique mix of education, entertainment, cultural awareness and civic engagement that connects authentically with community participants. On site programs are further augmented by programs that range from events such as the Seattle Hip-Hop Leadership Conference to candidate forums and music festivals. (See Program History.) There are satellite programs at partner sites including Garfield Teen Life Center,Yesler Community Center and Rainier Beach High School.
With support from many sources Umoja grew organically from 2008 to 2011, with limited formal planning. The Center, its supporters, and founder K. Wyking Garrett, became important voices informing efforts by the City of Seattle to address the needs of African-American youth.
In late 2010 the City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development identified Umoja as the recipient of a Technical Assistance Pilot Project. This provided assistance in creating a strategic plan to guide the next three to five years of Umoja’s growth, and to enhance the ability of potential partners and funders to participate in supporting the organization.
In February 2011 a Strategic Planning Team was convened. This group brought a wealth of knowledge, experience and passion to the process of planning for Umoja’s future, working with consultant Claudia Bach, AdvisArts Consulting. The process included review and revisions to the mission, vision and core values statements for Umoja, an examination of data on youth activities to date, and research on best practices of nationally-noted organizations involved in similar work around the country. This led to the development of strategic five-year goals to 2016, and two-year objectives to guide Umoja through 2013. An appendix outlines implementation priorities.
This document provides a roadmap for the next phase of UmojaFestP.E.A.C.E.Center. Umoja is poised today to fulfill its potential as a critical nexus point, with increased focus and support within the organization, and in the larger community.