Urban communities are generally under served in terms of healthcare, literacy programs, and people that generally care for the well-being of the people that live there. Many times, the local heroes that try to contribute to these communities are unsung and tend to fly under the radar. The Fresh & Local team recently had the chance to learn about a new organization by the name of Umojalife. that plans to create initiatives within Atlanta neighborhoods that promote goodwill, health awareness, and business programs to help prepare young entrepreneurs jump start their careers. They started in 2015 and have hit the ground running in multiple avenues, with their upcoming 3rd Annual JuneTeenth Festival at Bonfire ATL bringing everything full circle. We sat down with Teaacup, co-founder of UmojaLife to learn a bit more about the organization and how they plan to continue their unique approach to service.
We understand that UmojaLife Inc. is based around building communities and creating leaders within the community as well. When was the organization started and what ultimately led to its creation? The organization started in 2015, literally about a month before our first JuneteenthFest. It still amazes me how Umojalife, now on its 3rd annual JuneteenthFest, got started from social media. Myself, Briana Boykin (½ Umojalife co-founder,) and several others brought a debate from Twitter into a group chat to discuss a resolution to social issues that arose via social media. We decided to have an event that could bring the community together to celebrate our talents & achievements while speaking on our rights we should all should know as Americans.
Where did the UmojaLife name originate? Briana named the organization Umojalife, "umoja" meaning unity, and we decided to celebrate Juneteenth since it’s a holiday lots of people were unfamiliar with. She and I have led the organization to build upon equity by throwing eclectic events to reach our millennial community. In spreading awareness and providing resources, we want our approach to be informal so we often include local artistry in our events. The goal is to provide equity in healthcare, education, business, and art which we both have passions for. Umojalife also sponsors other organizations that are involved in community building as well.
You all have done outreach programs in different communities and cities such as Atlanta, GA and Greenville, NC; what do these programs mainly consist of and how do you go about choosing each location? We started Umojalife in Atlanta so that’s where most of our events are based. Bre lived in Greensboro for some time and held a few events up there. We have both held and sponsored events to feed and clothe the homeless, give away book bags and school supplies. We've held a free clinic for those without health insurance to get check ups and info about health, in addition to building a book pantry to place in an Atlanta community to encourage reading & literacy for children. Umojalife has also held an art event called "4 The Love of Creatives" to collect donations for the homeless and most recently, our #iHateBadBiz event.
Can you tell us a little bit about the recent event, #IHateBadBiz? What were the topics of discussion? #IHateBadBiz brought together professionals from different avenues to provide insight and resources to jump start a business. A few of the professionals specialized in resume building, web & graphic design, accounting, and marketing. We also had a lawyer and a music industry A&R present. We discussed stereotypes in the black community, how to bring an idea to life, obstacles that professionals may have stumbled upon, and business etiquette & professionalism. Whether you were an artist or clothing designer, this event provided resources. Guests left with physical copies of tips provided by business strategist Trancey White to put on their mirror and/or vision board to use as a guideline. *SEE "5 Tips For Growing Your Business/Brand"*
Can you tell us a bit about the Juneteenth Festival you held this year at Bonfire ATL? Many people are familiar with Umojalife's festival style-expo and have mentioned coming to spread awareness, pass out business cards, free samples of their product, and to even market their artistry. With this being the 3rd year for JuneteenthFest, the event has grown from having 50 people in the park to hundreds packing out the venue. Each year more small businesses and artists want to become a part of the Umojalife community in an effort to build equity. At BonfireATL you can expect over 20 small businesses & services in attendance.
Are there any specific types of businesses that the Juneteenth Festival tends to focus on? We've had hand-made clothing designers, natural brands, henna and make-up artists, food companies, visual artists, non-profit organizations & so much more. Most vendors are returning and have been in attendance at past Umojalife events. The stage will be open to live painters, musical acts, spoken word and speakers. The venue itself is a place where artists can connect so guests have the opportunity to also skateboard or even hoop. The event is kid friendly so there will be various activities for children to engage in. What people can expect from this year's Juneteenth festival is getting to know the commemoration behind the holiday and familiarity of local companies.
Are there any other projects coming up for UmojaLife? We are in the process of planning the first seeding for our community garden, setting up more locations for our free clinics, and continuing most of our annual events such as feeding and collecting clothes for the homeless and partnering with The Remnant of ATL, another non-profit organization, for its annual back to school drive.
Where can our viewers find out more information about UmojaLife and how can they get involved? They can find more information from visiting our website www.umojamissions.com, or following our social media pages. We are the most active on IG & Facebook. They can reach out to us by simply emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always open to donating and/or sponsoring events that coincide with community building.