No stranger to adversity, the pandemic inspired the men in Ujamaa’s Music Therapy program to start their very own music group, Ujamaa Music Group (UMG). Finding music to be a cathartic way to tell their stories, UMG went to work on their first single, “On A Mission”, which debuts January 25, 2021.
Saint Paul, MN (January 25, 2021) – The coronavirus pandemic rocked the stability of the population served at Ujamaa Place, primarily African American men, ages 18-30. For men already experiencing poverty, homelessness or housing instability, high rates of unemployment or low wages, food insecurity, and trauma, COVID-19 only exacerbated the challenges the Ujamaa Men must overcome on their transformation journeys. Ujamaa coaches knew they had to get creative to keep the men encouraged. Ujamaa Coach Stevenson Morgan listened to the men, who had one thing in common – a love for music.
Before the pandemic hit, the Ujamaa Film Club was hired by OMG Digital Media Solutions, a Minnesota-based media and entertainment firm, to film a show at The Dakota. The Ujamaa Film Club had the opportunity to interview one of the performers from the show that night, legendary producer and musician, Mr. Kirk A. Johnson, for their podcast, “A Black Man’s Sketch”. Nobody had any idea then that Mr. KAJ would end up directing the Ujamaa Music Group in just a few months’ time. As an African American man, living in Minnesota, Mr. KAJ was drawn to the mission of Ujamaa Place, and the stars aligned when the need arose for someone to develop and teach Music Therapy classes. With the assistance of Mr. KAJ, Ujamaa built-out a studio where the men attended weekly classes as a cohort, from which UMG was born. After working together for 20 weeks, UMG along with Mr. KAJ, wrote and produced their first single “On A Mission.” “The men are learning the business of music in these classes, as they are already talented artists,” said Mr. KAJ.
Ujamaa Place is focused on developing Ujamaa Men for high-paying careers of the 21st century. “We are showing the men that they can create a business enterprise built on their own foundation,” said CEO Otis Zanders. We see UMG as a program model to prepare the men for careers in the entertainment industry, which will surely make a comeback post-COVID.
Famed drummer and producer Sheila E., a friend of Ujamaa Place, expressed her congratulations to UMG, saying “It’s amazing how music can heal and inspire. These young men are sharing their stories through song. It’s a great song that people will love as they speak their truth.”
Monique Linder, President/CEO of OMG Digital Media Solutions, who has worked in and observed the entertainment industry for decades predicts a major comeback. “People have cabin fever and are looking forward to the return of live entertainment. When that time comes, the men of UMG will have the knowledge and training to either compete for jobs or start their own businesses,” said Linder.
In its advocacy mission for social justice, Ujamaa Place is focused on disrupting poverty and combatting racist systems, which threaten the health and welfare of the population it serves. Ujamaa Place is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Saint Paul, MN, that provides holistic services under its Theory of Transformation program model at no charge to the men. Ujamaa Place is a brotherhood that supports and takes care of one another. 100% of the proceeds from each download of “On A Mission” will go to the general fund to support emergency and other needed services for men enrolled in the Theory of Transformation.
To learn more about the programs and services available at Ujamaa Place, visit: ujamaaplace.org.
About Ujamaa Place
Ujamaa Place serves the most marginalized population in society, primarily African American men, ages 18-30. Ujamaa Place provides holistic transformation for men experiencing inequity at the intersection of race and poverty. Ujamaa Place helps them achieve brotherhood, stability and personal success.