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1901 Centre Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
United States

(412) 228-5160

The Ujamaa Collective is a non-profit organization of women of African descent who are entrepreneurs, artisans, artists and individuals who are committed to serving their community through leadership. Through Ujamaa, artisans will have an economic outlet for their work, micro-enterprises will have the support to grow, customers will gain access to locally-produced items, and Pittsburgh will have a regional destination to draw customers and visitors to the Historic Hill District.

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About Us

Investing in the next generation of Africana women makers
through art, culture and cooperation.

UJAMAA /N. (OOH-JAH'-MAH)

THE FOURTH PRINCIPLE OF KWANZAA: TO BUILD AND MAINTAIN OUR OWN STORES,
SHOPS AND OTHER BUSINESSES AND PROFIT FROM THEM TOGETHER

 

Non-profit Ujamaa Collective meets at the intersection of arts, culture and entrepreneurship. Seen as a national cooperative model, our mission is to create spaces, opportunities, networks, education and support for low-income women of African descent to grow as entrepreneurs, artisans and servant leaders so that "we may lift as we climb." We believe in using cooperative strategies to serve the mutual needs of the creative community and are committed to creating opportunities specifically in craft and artisan industries. Ujamaa believe that artists can be workers, developing their skills as entrepreneurs, and also as servant-leaders in our community, so that we may "lift as we climb."

Through Ujamaa, Africana artisans have an economic outlet for their work, micro-enterprises have the support to grow, customers gain access to locally-produced items, and Pittsburgh has a regional destination to draw customers and visitors to the Historic Hill District.

“Our Vision: Economically vibrant, green and sustainable communities for people of African descent.”

THE ISSUE

Our goal is to help Africana (Black) women in particular develop self-sufficiency through creative entrepreneurship by working together. Women are the first teachers of their children and often times the primary breadwinner, the community advocate, and a creative force within the family. 

“Unfortunately however, many Black women in Pittsburgh share a common bond with women in third world (developing/underdeveloped) countries- poverty and a poor standard of living.”

As one of America’s Most Livable Cities, we have work to do. Just as the originator’s of the fair trade movement were stirred to open up economic channels after witnessing the hard work and creative endeavors of our international brothers and sisters and seeing them not receive their fair share, Ujamaa was formed similarly to make a difference. Fair Trade is just as relevant in impacting poverty in the United States as it is across the waters in foreign countries. A local woman learning how to help herself helps her children and her entire family. Multiple women working together transforms the community. Ujamaa Collective is doing its best to combine cultural ethics with cooperative business practices, promoting the practice of local & global fair trade. The women we serve and wish to impact range from teenagers to grandmothers. It is our goal to harness these qualities to remind women of the power they possess to create agency within their own lives, enhancing their innate skills and learning new proficiencies to help them in determining where they want to go. 

Click the links below to further discover why UJAMAA is so important.

Study Finds Median Wealth for Single Black Women at $5

Insight Center for Community Economic Development

Measure of America Report

Jessica Gordon Nembhard on the History of African-American Cooperative Economic Practice

 

Ujamaa Collective's overarching objectives include:

  • To increase entrepreneurship among women of African descent, particularly in the Hill District;
  • To promote economic development and entrepreneurial activity through cooperative means in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, thereby combating community deterioration;
  • To provide training, marketing and other support to increase entrepreneurship among women of African descent, particularly low-income women in the Hill District;
  • To establish standards of quality and promote the cultural awareness and connectivity of craftswomen of African descent (through the establishment of artist guilds);
  • To create spaces of exchange and commerce that are healthy for the minds, bodies and spirits of people of African descent;
  • To create infrastructure that increases the wealth accumulated and circulated within  communities of African descent, particularly the Hill District;
  • To educate the public in the artistry, history and cultural significance of African-centered crafts and foods;
  • To promote agricultural activity, nutritional education and healthy eating habits in communities of African descent, particularly the Hill District

herstory: how we began

The idea was a simple one: Black women, entrepreneurs, acting in unity for the benefit of the individual entrepreneur, the collective and the community. Integral to this concept was the inclusion of a green marketplace that would benefit the Hill District community physically, economically, socially and spiritually.

At first, the response to the call to action was slow. However, Ujamaa soon experienced an exponential growth that expanded its intent into a multi-faceted collective idea, with input from many voices and visions.

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Ujamaa Collective understands the needs of these women. We are who we seek to serve. What is unique in our approach to the alleviation of social ills and creating an empowering legacy in these common situations is the interdependence of extended family and kinship groups combined with adherence to a collective system of values and codes. We build sisterhood and community. With the Nguzo Saba as our primary code, as well as product guidelines and ethical behavior for the marketplace drawn out from the Adinkra symbols system of West Africa, Ujamaa is tapping into the best our cultural legacy has to offer. All of these principles and values have been applied and tested within our individual businesses and community lifestyles, and we acknowledge the positive change they have helped cultivate in our formal and informal relationships. 

Since Spring 2008, the women of Ujamaa Collective have hosted, partnered and supported hundreds of programs and exhibits in surrounding communities of Pittsburgh. The groundbreaking for the Ujamaa Collective Marketplace was in the Spring of 2010, located right in the heart of Centre Avenue. The Ujamaa Boutique also opened it's doors in 2010, offering the high-quality and handmade goods of the women of the Ujamaa Collective, local and international artisans to the Pittsburgh Region.


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Celeta Hickman is the founder of Ujamaa Collective. Since 2007 she has vended her jewelry and cards throughout the region and always maintained a small garden and/or composting system with hopes of improving soil conditions in her community and moving to commercial production. She is a cultural historian focusing on Africana Studies in general and more specifically in African functionalism. A significant portion of her professional career was with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh as a library assistant in the Foundation Center and Africana Collection at the main branch in Oakland and at the Carnegie Museum of Art as a cataloger and oral historian for the Charles “Teenie” Harris Archive. Her work as a fine artist has graced the exhibits held by the Women of Vision and the Society of Yoruba Bead Artists. Celeta is a retired performer who was a principle dancer for Nego Gato Capoeria de Angola, Shades of Black Movement and the Legacy Arts Project. She uses the arts and history to inspire challenged communities and those serving them to work for the higher good. In addition, she has a long history as a teaching artist (Western PA Wolf Trap, Culturally Responsive Arts Education, and Lincoln Center Model of Aesthetic Education).