UMOJA: Creating Events to Raise Our Consciousness as a People

The State of The Black Family, an informal gathering of community members, artists, politicians, clergy, elders and youth, will take place at the CAO Rafi Green Center, 1433 Fillmore Avenue this Saturday, June 30 starting at 12noon and goes on until…..

The theme is “Africa Is Our First Family, So Put US First”! Hosted by Umoja (Unity in the Community), speakers will evaluate the challenges and issues Black families face today. The focus is on dialogue and the sharing of information, knowledge and possible solutions. “Part of the emphasis of the session is to always come up with solutions and suggestions,” said Umoja founder William E. (Bill) Peoples. The father of 8 and grandfather of 12, Peoples sees such dialogue as especially significant in today’s world.

These critical times that we’re living in dictates the fact that we should first of all learn how to be and do better… and then just go ahead and do it!” Love of self and love for one another, is critical in that equation he said. “But right now many of us have the capacity to love our enemies to the extent of our own detriment.” Community activist, and a core member of Umoja, Samuel L. Radford will serve as Master of Ceremonies.

“The importance of this gathering is the multigenerational aspect, from elders to middle age to millennials,” said Radford. “All of the challenges and issues we face ultimately come down to family.” It is our responsibility as a people, he added, to solve the issues that impact our families and our lives.

“The State of Our Black Family event gives us the opportunity to talk about where we’ve been, we’re at and where we want to go as a people,” he concluded. So far the scheduled speakers include: Quadir Lateef, Vonetta T. Rhodes-Osi, Isaiah Nsoromma, Karima Amin, Franklin Redd, Lion & Sophia Blyden, Duncan Kirkwood, Janate “Solar” Ingram- Gill, Dayarta Hassan, Cariol Horne, Phylida Brown, Dahveed Muhammad, Lee Baskersville, Darryl King, Ulysees O. Wingo, Ras Jomo, Taniqua Simmons, and Marilyn Foot- Kragbe.

This is a time of enrichment, reflection, strengthening and healing for our families,” noted Umoja’s Patricia A. Elliott-Patton. For more information or if you are interested in speaking, contact Ms. Elliott-Patton at (716) 948-0604. The event is free and lunch will be served. Feel free to bring food items or beverages to share (no pork, red meat or alcohol allowed.)

-The Birth of Umoja-

On August 5th Bill Peoples will celebrate his 78th birthday. Buffalo born and raised, he is a graduate of Lafayette High School and attended UB’s Milliard Fillmore College. He credits his parents as his first mentors. The late entrepreneur Trunnis Goggins he said, was his second, and in the early sixties it was Goggins who took his mentorship to another level.

“He was very successful and I wanted to be like him! He was a role model,” Bill recalls.

In 1970 Peoples purchased the building at Ferry and Grider while working at Wonder Bread. He ultimately found success going into business for himself “I’ve always been somewhat involved in the community,” he said. “When I had the idea to create Umoja I actually tried to kill it! But it kept coming back stronger than ever.” Eventually he realized it was “something to be very serious about…and I realized it was not going anywhere. That’s when I was approaching my 60th birthday in the year 2000, so we decided I would have the birthday celebration and the birth of Umoja at the same time at the Kensington Place!”

The first public event Umoja hosted was a Town Hall Meeting featuring Judge James McLeod, Asar Africa, Willie Warren, Richard Nelson and Derrick Byrd a moderator (he credits Asar for giving him the organization’s name Umoja). That event was followed by a “Person of the Year” award which went to community activist the late Rev. James Hemphill.

Today Umoja, made up of core members William Peoples, his wife Cynthia, Brother Sam (Radford) and Patricia A. Elliott-Patton, hosts four nation building events yearly: The Blessed Gathering, a celebration of womanhood; the State of the Black Family; The Person of the Year Honors and the Convening of the Elders.

In addition, Umoja has presented a Prodigal Child Award at East high for the last two years to the “Most Improved Student.” The award is named in honor of Bill’s late sister, Rose Covial. This year’s winner was Miss Avian Bates. Peoples had praise for Sam and Patricia. “Sam and Pat have been invaluable,” he said, “they’ve kept things going.

It’s gratifying when you get a thought and people buy into it and it’s all positive. It kind of validates what you’re trying to do.” He also acknowledged the support of Cliff Bell and Dr. Willie Underwood.

“The overall purpose of Umoja and the events it created and hosts, is to raise our consciousness as a people,” concluded Bill, “to realize that we can solve most of the issues we are faced with very quickly if we just decide to go ahead and just do it!”