17 January, 2010
Nestled between New York and Washington, D.C., Philadelphia is viewed by many as “The Next Great American City”. It is the fifth largest metropolitan area and the fourth largest media market in the United States. Philadelphia – “The Next Great American City” -- is home to a number of globally recognized business leaders, social entrepreneurs, educators, historians, scientists, legislators, Thought Leaders, musicians, artists, authors, and thespians. The heart and soul of Philadelphia --“The Next Great American City” -- lies within its neighborhoods, artistic and business communities, academic and religious institutions, and grassroots community organizations. In many ways and for many reasons, The House Of Umoja, Inc. is regarded as the “heart and soul” of Philadelphia – “The Next Great American City”.
Created in 1968 by Queen Mother Falaka Fattah and her husband Mr. David Fattah, the House Of Umoja, Inc., for over 40 years has quietly and unceremoniously provided a life line for over approximately 3,000 young urban males between the ages of 15 through 18 in Philadelphia – “The Next Great American City”. It has created and implemented a blueprint for peace that has become a global model for reducing violent and abusive behavior, providing intervention in negative behavior, and saving the lives of youth and families in distress. The internationally acclaimed organization’s successful track record of transforming and working with youths has moved universities and institutions that include, but are not limited to, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Prevention and the Center for Disease Control, to seek the expertise of Queen Mother Falaka Fattah and her husband Mr. David Fattah in the areas of gang reduction, youth programming, and community organizing. Former United States Presidents Jimmy Carter and the late Ronald Reagan have recognized the House Of Umoja, Inc. for its pioneering work which has been documented in published articles such as A Summons To Life, by Robert Woodson of the American Enterprise Institute in 1981 and The Violent Juvenile Offender by Paul DeMuro and Richard Allison of the National Council On Crime And Delinquency in 1984.
Moving Children To Commit To NonViolence And Bringing Peace To A City
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, rising gang violence and homicides gripped the City of Philadelphia. While parents, educators, legislators, law enforcement professionals, business and religious leaders, and concerned community members all agreed that they wanted and needed the rising gang violence and homicide rate in the City of Philadelphia to end, there was no clear cut consensus on how to save lives and end the violence. In 1972, the House Of Umoja, Inc. under the leadership of Queen Mother Falaka Fattah and her husband Mr. David Fattah stepped out on faith and took action that would eventually end rising gang violence and gang-related homicides in the City of Philadelphia. It organized and staged the first Peace Conference in the City of Philadelphia which was attended by gang members. The Peace Conference was held at the Quaker Meeting House which is located at 320 Arch Street in Philadelphia. This conference resulted in a 60-day “ceasefire” among the gangs. For the next 60 days immediately following the peace conference, gang violence and gang-related homicides came to a screeching halt in the City of Philadelphia. A lasting peace among gangs in the City of Philadelphia was successfully negotiated on 1 January 1974 – New Years’ Day -- by the House Of Umoja, Inc. at a second peace conference. Approximately 400 gang members who attended the second peace conference signed an agreement – the Imani Pact – which was authored by Mr. David Fattah, a co-founder of the House Of Umoja, Inc.
“When other Philadelphia institutions and organizations expressed their reluctance to allow the House of Umoja to hold the first Peace Conference that would be attended by gang members in their facilities, the Quaker Meeting House, at great risk, opened its doors. I have to say that the Quaker Meeting House played a pivotal role in helping the House of Umoja resolve the violent and deadly conflicts that occurred among gangs and bring peace to the City of Philadelphia. We were able to negotiate peace among the City of Philadelphia’s gangs that lasted for approximately 60 days in 1972. After about 60 days, tensions among the gangs resurfaced and that moved us to convene a second conference which was attended by 400gang members on 1 January 1974. The young men who signed the Imani Pact in 1974, laid down their weapons and a lasting peace was created,” Queen Mother Falaka Fattah recalled.
The Imani Pact and the No Gang War In 74 Campaign created by the House Of Umoja, Inc. which ended gang violence and gang-related homicides in the City of Philadelphia became the cornerstone of an anti-violence initiative -- The Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign and the Imani Peace Pledge-- launched by the House Of Umoja, Inc. in 2006, thirty-two years later. On 1 January 2006 – New Year’s Day, the House Of Umoja, Inc. launched its Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign in response to spiraling youth violence and homicides occurring in the City of Philadelphia.
The Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign
On Sunday, 1 January 2006 – on New Year’s Day – and on Imani which is Swahili for the word “faith” – the last day of Kwanzaa, the House Of Umoja, Inc. launched its Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign with the convening of the 2006 Stay Alive IMANI Youth Anti-Violence Conference at Pinn Memorial Baptist Church (http://www.pinnmemorial.org) in Philadelphia’s Wynnefield section from 1:00 P.M. through 5:00 P.M. Legislators, parents, grassroots community organizations, Fatherhood Practitioners, the electronic and print media, students from the School District of Philadelphia, educators, social entrepreneurs, and concerned community members attended the conference.
“The 2006 Stay Alive IMANI Youth Anti-Violence Conference was a Kwanzaa celebration and a forum where barriers to peace, among other things, were discussed. It was a component of an intense strategic effort to compel our children and youth to commit to peace by not engaging in acts of violence. The conference provided the youth and children in our city with an opportunity to freely talk to the adults about issues that concerned them and offer ideas and suggestions about what should be done to stop the violence in their schools and neighborhoods. Our children and our youth told us – the adults – what they needed and wanted from us. Now, at the same time, our children and youth could clearly see that we – the adults -- were genuinely listening to what they had to say and serious about taking action to reduce violence in their schools and neighborhoods,” Queen Mother Falaka Fattah remarked.
By the end of the first quarter of Calendar Year 2006, Queen Mother Falaka Fattah and her husband Mr. David Fattah had established a Steering Committee for the House Of Umoja, Inc.’s Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign. They brought together individuals with diverse talents who, as members of the Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign Steering Committee, helped the House Of Umoja, Inc. create and implement initiatives designed to move children in the City of Philadelphia to commit to peace. The House Of Umoja, Inc. established “Partnerships For Peace” with the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Atwater-Kent Museum, Keepers of the Culture Storytellers, and the print and electronic media which included Radio Station WXPN. Major Philadelphia newspapers – The Philadelphia Daily News, The Philadelphia Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Weekly -- published an article and the full text of the IMANI PledgeTM during the week of 10-14 April 2006 which was the Spring vacation for the School District of Philadelphia and a time during which students in Philadelphia’s schools would have access to and read the newspapers – particularly the article concerning the Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign and the full text of the Imani PledgeTM. Why have the full text of the Imani PledgeTM published in the newspapers? Publishing the full text of the Imani PledgeTM in the newspapers that the children and youth would not only read, but also sign, would give the youth and children in the City of Philadelphia an opportunity to take an active role in bringing peace to their schools, neighborhoods, and their city. Over 800 children and youth who lived and attended schools in the Greater Philadelphia area and had read the newspapers during the week of 10-14 April 2006, signed the IMANI PledgeTM and mailed their signed Pledges to the House Of Umoja, Inc. The strategy developed by the House Of Umoja, Inc. under the umbrella of the Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign was working!
“The key element and central focus of the Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign was and continues to be the IMANI PledgeTM which is a contractual agreement signed by children and youth of the City of Philadelphia that they will not engage in acts of violence in and outside of school. In signing the Pledge, the youth and children acknowledge that their forefathers brought peace to the City of Philadelphia as youths, and that they too, can do the same. The Pledge ends with the commitment statement ‘Let my word be my bond’ and the House of Umoja is perpetuating the theme ‘I come in peace’ along with the IMANI PledgeTM. During the first quarter of 2006, the House Of Umoja went into schools in its area and directly engaged students – the leaders-to-be ---, beginning with the ninth graders, in a strategy to change the violent culture,” explained Queen Mother Falaka Fattah.
As the Imani PledgeTM continued to capture the attention and imagination of children and youth throughout the City Of Philadelphia during the Spring of 2006, the House Of Umoja, Inc. created a Student Non-Violence Poster Competition in which students from Philadelphia’s middle and high schools participated. The students were asked to create posters that symbolized one of the following themes: Non-Violence, Peace In The Hood, Family Harmony, and The Greatness Of Our African-American Heritage. They were also asked to sign the IMANI PledgeTM and submit the signed Pledge along with their artwork to The House Of Umoja, Inc. Three works of arts were selected for cash prizes and an additional four works of art received honorable mention. All of the artwork submitted by the students became a component of a traveling exhibit which was displayed on 10 September 2006 at the Penn Cinema in Philadelphia at an “Artist Reception” which preceded the premiere of “I Come In Peace”, a play written by students, and later at the School District of Philadelphia’s Administration Building.
The House Of Umoja, Inc.’s efforts to move a new generation of children in the City of Philadelphia to commit to nonviolence did not escape the attention of the city’s Mayor. The Honorable John F. Street, Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, issued a proclamation which declared the week of 15-20 May 2006 as “Faith Of Our Fathers Week” throughout Philadelphia. During “Faith Of Our Fathers Week”, an illuminated sign perched atop a Center City Philadelphia skyscraper which housed the Philadelphia Electric Company carried a special message: “Sign The Imani PledgeTM”! Members of Men Making A Difference held its Day Of Community Service at the House Of Umoja, Inc. on Saturday, 20 May 2006 which took the form of “cleaning up and fixing up the block” while WURD 900 AM Radio held a live broadcast at the House Of Umoja, Inc. for several hours during which it conducted a “Radiothon” fundraiser for the organization. The artwork submitted by students throughout the City of Philadelphia who participated in the Student Non-Violence Poster Competition were displayed; live entertainment and refreshments were provided for the neighborhood, members of community organizations and invited guests; and face painting and a moon bounce were provided for the children.
The House Of Umoja, Inc.’s efforts to move the children and youth of the City of Philadelphia to commit to peace was punctuated in the beginning of the last quarter of 2006 by the premiere of a play, “I Come In Peace”, on 10 September 2006 at Cinema at Penn in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The play was the product of the House Of Umoja, Inc.’s Summer 2006 Career Exploration Program and a celebration of the House Of Umoja, Inc.’s “Peace In the Hood” Campaign To Stop The Violence. The youthful performers and collaborators who staged works about Violence and Peace Initiatives on 10 September 2006 at Cinema at Penn -- Marquis Blackston, Anton Cochran, Terrell Edwards, David Morris, Deneisha Overby, Jerome Rorie, Jabril Ward, and Shaun White -- participated in the House Of Umoja, Inc.’s Summer 2006 Career Exploration Program.
So, how effective were the violence prevention and peace promotion activities provided by The House Of Umoja, Inc. in schools in the City of Philadelphia which took the form of, among other things, workshops and assemblies? An evaluation report released by the School District of Philadelphia for Calendar Year 2006 reflected the fact that schools receiving services from the House Of Umoja, Inc. experienced a decrease in the number of incidents related to violence, weapon use, theft, moral offenses, harassment, and vandalism.
The School District Of Philadelphia’s Evaluation Report contained the following excerpted data which reflects a decrease in serious incidents from the 2004-2005 Academic Year through the 2005-2006 Academic Year for the following schools which received service from the House of Umoja, Inc.:
- Bluford Elementary School: The number of serious incidents decreased by 41% in serious incidents.
- Overbrook High School: The number of serious incidents decreased from 202 to 135, reflecting a 33% decrease in serious incidents.
- Powell Elementary School: The number of serious incidents decreased by 25%.
- Barry (Shoemaker) Middle School: The number of serious incidents
decreased from 84 to 59, reflecting a 30% decrease in serious incidents.
The House Of Umoja, Inc. Brings The National Million Father March
To The City Of Philadelphia
Tapped in the Summer of 2007 to lead and organize the National Million Father March in the City of Philadelphia by Chicago, Illinois’ Phillip Jackson, the Founder and Executive Director of the Black Star Project and the creator of the annual event, The House Of Umoja, Inc. continues to be a powerful voice in the Global Dialogue on Fatherhood and a fixture in the International Fatherhood Community. For the third consecutive year, on 8 September 2009, the first day of the 2009-2010 academic year, the House Of Umoja, Inc. moved Fathers in the City of Philadelphia to redefine their parental roles and responsibilities by “stepping up and out” and escorting their children to school. The House Of Umoja, Inc.’s leadership and organizing role for the National Million Father March in the City of Philadelphia has not only empowered Fathers, it has also captured the imagination of a city, energized the City of Philadelphia’s school system, and rekindled community spirit. The House Of Umoja, Inc. through its Co-Founder, Mr. David Fattah, who has since Calendar Year 2007 served as the Coordinator for the National Million Father March in the City of Philadelphia, galvanized the support of business and religious leaders, social entrepreneurs, Fatherhood Practitioners, Fathers’ Rights Advocates, legislators, the electronic and print media, educators, parents, and concerned citizens for the annual event. The City of Philadelphia was one of 550 cities throughout the United States participating in the National 2009 Million Father March which, on 25 August 2009, received an endorsement from The Honorable Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education.
On Tuesday, 1 September 2009 at 10:00 A.M., a press conference was held at the School District of Philadelphia’s Administration Building where it was announced that the National 2009 Million Father March would occur in the City of Philadelphia on Tuesday, 8 September 2009. Mr. Fattah, the Coordinator for the National 2009 Million Father March in the City of Philadelphia and the Co-Founder of the House Of Umoja, Inc. was joined at the podium by, among others, school administrators, and members of Men United For A Better Philadelphia. The press conference was attended by members of the electronic and print media, Fatherhood Practitioners, social entrepreneurs, members of numerous grassroots community organizations, and concerned citizens. The next stop for Mr. Fattah was the Office of the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia where he attended an 11:30 A.M. Press Conference at which The Honorable Michael A. Nutter, Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, announced his support for the National 2009 Million Father March in the City of Philadelphia.
Mayor Nutter stated that the National 2009 Million Father March in Philadelphia “had the potential to change the entire city”. In an article entitled “Dads Urged To Support Kids Academically” authored by journalist Eric Mayes and published in the 3 September 2009 edition of The Philadelphia Tribune, Mayor Nutter further remarked:
“Fathers can, should and must play a critical role in the education of their children . . . Involvement should run deeper than a walk on the first day of school and extend to the whole year and beyond. . . . Let it not be the last day that they take their child to school. Talk to your employer, talk to whoever you need to talk to — everyone’s life is different — about the opportunity to be able to take your child to school every day or as many days as possible. That would really help your children and this entire city.”
On Monday, 7 September 2009, upon learning about Mayor Nutter’s characterization of the National 2009 Million Father March as “having the potential to change the entire City of Philadelphia”, Phillip Jackson, the creator of the National Million Father March, circulated Mayor Nutter’s statement to the e-mail distribution list for the National 2009 Million Father March which encompassed at least 550 cities throughout the United States to which he (Jackson) added the following note: “This message applies to every city!” This action on the part of Mr. Jackson moved the City of Philadelphia and The House Of Umoja, Inc. into the global spotlight.
Against the backdrop of the glare of television cameras manned by film crews and a crowd of photographers and electronic and print media journalists, on Tuesday, 8 September 2009, Men gathered at the House Of Umoja, Inc. beginning at 7:00 A.M. for a light breakfast where they were greeted by The Honorable Michael A. Nutter, Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, who made brief remarks to them. After breakfast, the men participated in the National 2009 Million Father March by marching from the House of Umoja, Inc. at 5625 West Master Street to Overbrook High School at 5958 Lancaster Avenue. The men were joined by Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes, United States Congressman Chaka Fattah, and City of Philadelphia Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. Throughout the day, radio and television news programs in the City of Philadelphia discussed the National 2009 Million Father March and the city’s participation in it. For several days immediately following the National 2009 Million Father March, a number of Philadelphia newspapers carried articles about and photographs of the March that had occurred during the first day of the 2009-2010 academic year.
“Fathers throughout the United States were being asked to escort their children to school on the first day of the 2009-2010 academic year and to become and remain proactive in their children’s education. The House Of Umoja, Inc. asked all Fathers in every neighborhood in the City Of Philadelphia to ‘step up’ and escort their children to school on Tuesday, 8 September 2009, the first day of the 2009-2010 academic year. We also asked Fathers to have their children commit to nonviolence by signing the Imani PledgeTM, to encourage their children to excel academically, to ‘want more, be more, and do more,’ and to pick up a copy of their child’s roster along with a copy of the Academic Calendar Of Events from their child’s school. We encouraged Fathers to meet the principal and teachers of their child’s school. We urged Fatherhood Practitioners, social entrepreneurs, male parenting organizations, faith-based organizations, religious institutions, businesses, and concerned citizens to become involved in the 2009 National Million Father March in the City of Philadelphia. We all have key ‘pieces of the puzzle’ to helping Fathers ‘step up’ and moving our children to ‘want more, be more, and do more’. The 2009 Million Father March was about everyone bringing their key pieces of the puzzle to the table to enable Fathers to ‘step up’ and move our children – our future – our bridge to the future to excel academically, commit to nonviolence, and embark on a path that will lead them to becoming productive and successful adults. The 2009 Million Father March was about the children. And when it’s all said done, shouldn’t it really be about the children?” Mr. David Fattah, the Coordinator of the 2009 National Million Father March for the City of Philadelphia and Co-Founder of the House Of Umoja, Inc. remarked.
Think Green Peace Campaign
On 28 April 2008, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon established and co-chaired a Task Force On The Global Food Security Crisis. There was talk around the world about a “Global Food Crisis”. Some pointed to the burgeoning demand for food, soaring food prices buoyed by astronomically rising energy prices, declining investments in the agricultural sector, the imposition of export restrictions and reports of hoarding and panic buying of food and food products as clear cut signs that a “Global Food Crisis” was imminent. At the same time, heightened concern arose about global climate change and the impact it could have on, among other things, the world’s food supply. Meanwhile, in the City of Philadelphia -- “The Next Great American City” --, the House Of Umoja, Inc. and members of its Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign Steering Committee developed a plan. The “plan” came in the form of the Think Green Peace Campaign, a multi-tiered initiative that includes the building of a green solar house. Thus far, the Think Green Peace Campaign has created a “Peace Garden”; transformed a number of vacant lots in the City of Philadelphia into urban farms that are yielding 30 varieties of produce; spawned a collaboration between senior members and the children and youth of communities in the City of Philadelphia; and launched the First Philadelphia Collard Greens and Cultural Festival which was held from Friday, 25 July 2008 through Sunday, 27 July 2008.
“The idea for the First Philadelphia Collard Greens and Cultural Festival which the House Of Umoja hosted came from Hakim Starkey, a member of our Faith Of Our Fathers Peace Campaign Steering Committee. It is one of several components of our ‘Think Green Peace’ Campaign and became the ‘launching pad’ for it. The ‘Think Green Peace’ Campaign is engaging our children in learning about our environment and getting them to connect the dots about the importance of the earth, how food is grown, how they can become self-sufficient, and how they can beautify the neighborhoods in which they live. It has spawned a collaboration between senior members and the children and youth in our communities. Senior members in our communities are showing our children and youth how to get the land ready for planting, how to plant seeds, and how to produce food. The current food crisis in which our global village finds itself immersed and which is grabbing headlines in newspapers and on television news programs really brings the message home to our children, our families and our communities about how important it is to learn and understand how food is grown and the importance of learning how to create options. Through our ‘Think Green Peace’ Campaign, a coalition has emerged consisting of our youth, business community, social entrepreneurs, religious institutions, legislators, and grassroots community organizations that is working to beautify the communities in which we live and work, to save our environment, and to create options for self-sufficiency,” Queen Mother Falaka Fattah explained.
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