Ujamaa (pronounced oo-Jah-mah) means cooperative economics. It is an African Kwanzaa principle that focuses on building Black businesses to create Black economy to further the development of Black communities.
Michael Morse is a Bay Area native, born in San Francisco and raised in Oakland. At a young age, he had a strong liking for nature, design, and building structures.
After graduating from Skyline High School, he enrolled into a carpentry program, finished an apprenticeship and earned the status of a journeyman carpenter. His experience as a carpenter took him into architecture.
Now with a Master’s of Architecture and Ecological Design from the San Francisco Institute of Architecture, and a passion for economics and sustainability, he plans to reintroduce the “Ujamaa mindset” to the Black community with his “Ujamaa Village” project.
“It’s about recirculating the Black dollar,’ said Morse, believing this it is fundamental when discussing the redevelopment and growth of Black communities.
Ecological design focuses on designing and building structures to represent the people living closest to them. Considering himself the first Black man with a Master’s degree in the field, he wants to put it to use to uplift his people. By reinserting African symbols and designs in the structure of homes and businesses in Black neighborhoods, it will help Black people focus on Black growth.
“Just as the Chinese has Chinatown, every cultural group has an area where they do business, where their people congregate [except Blacks],” said Morse.
But during the 20th century, predominately Black-towns existed and prospered across the United States. In Oklahoma, it was Greenwood; in New York, it was Harlem; and, in California, it was Allensworth. In the 1960’s and 70’s, even West Oakland’s 7th street corridor was filled with various Black businesses that prospered.
Today, he says, if the Black community employed a Black-centered mindset with strong economical and sustainability strategies, it would help them to employ themselves.
By using the ‘Go Green’ ideas of sustainability with his ‘intentional community building’ model, Morse believes aspects of the Black culture and community can be used to bring tangible results.
“It’s an attitude adjustment. Nobody outside of the community can do for us, what we have to do for ourselves,” he said.
For more information about the ‘Ujamaa Villages Project, visit www.ujamaavillages.wix.com/ujamaavillage or follow on Twitter and Facebook at Ujamaa Villages