St. Paul Organization Serving African American Men Reflects On Its Mission of Navigating Systemic Racism
Ujamaa Place CEO Otis Zanders writes a letter to the community in response to the execution of George Floyd and in condolence to his family.
By: Ujamaa Place
I am coming to you as the CEO of an organization that serves the most marginalized population in society, African American men, aged 18-30. Ujamaa Place serves on the front lines of the war on injustice by helping men navigate systemic poverty and racism, connection to the criminal justice system, homelessness and unemployment. Our hearts are broken from the generational trauma and human rights atrocities that our people have suffered for 400 years since the recording of the first slave ship's arrival in the U.S. We must allow the voices and strength of our ancestors to guide us through these unprecedented times and the challenging waters ahead.
As the son of sharecroppers from the Mississippi Delta, I witnessed firsthand at a very young age, the clear connection between the legacy of slavery and American Capitalism. Today as a husband, father, and CEO of Ujamaa Place, I still see the ways in which the legacy of slavery lives on through systemic racism and plays out in the everyday lives of African Americans. We pray that the solidarity we are witnessing from around the world is a sign that we are collectively ready to pluck the ugly root of systemic racism for good. We regret that it took the murders of George Floyd, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others for people to finally be fed up. We stand on mighty shoulders that taught us freedom and justice is not a given, and that we must continue to teach each generation to fight for equality.
The world witnessed George Floyd take his last breath as the knee of a white police officer lay on his neck restricting his airways, with members of the community pleading for his life. This was a reminder that we are not yet FREE from the bonds of slavery. The institution of slavery and its byproducts – racism, inequality, poverty and injustice are alive and well in our society today. This is why at Ujamaa Place, we focus on teaching our men to navigate systems of racism and ways to eliminate roadblocks that perpetuate inequality.
I feel that NOW is the time to strategize ways to confront systemic racism in every form of injustice that exists in communities across Black America. We have to be the change. No one is coming to save us. Allies can support us by denouncing racism and inequality in all forms. History is being written that will teach future generations that freedom and equality is not a given. We must fight for it.
I remain hopeful that good will come out of this great pain we are all feeling. Otis Zanders, CEO
With 10 years of service to the community under its belt, the challenges Ujamaa Place faces are greater than ever as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with recent, unjustified killings of black men and women, creating significant unrest for the population it serves.
To learn more about Ujamaa Place, go to: ujamaaplace.org.
Monique Linder, OMG Media Solutions