Umoja10- The 10 Year Commemoration of the Umoja Village
Several local organizations, organizers and activists are joining to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the Umoja Village, the shantytown erected in the heart of Liberty city in response to the crisis of gentrification. Commemorative events are scheduled for October 21st and 22nd in Liberty City and October 26th at the University of Miami’s Richter library. Event details, as well as videos, photos and reports about the Umoja Village, can be found at TakeBacktheLand.org. The most complete archives of the Umoja Village, including original planning documents and resident rosters, are housed at the University of Miami Library- Special Collections.
On October 23, 2006, in the wake of a brutal cycle of gentrification impacting Miami’s Black communities and the scathing Miami Herald ‘House of Lies’ series exposing county corruption that exacerbated the housing crisis, a group calling itself Take Back the Land utilized a little known city of Miami law and seized control over the vacant lot on the corner of 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave., building an urban shantytown, housing otherwise homeless people and modeling Black led radical campaigns years before Occupy Wall Street.
The Umoja Village became a community institution, offering free housing, food and clothing and served as an example of Black Power because no demands were made of government officials. After housing approximately 150 people, the Umoja Village fell to a mysterious fire that many believe was set by the city of Miami in order to prevent the planned expansion of the settlement set for later that same day. Take Back the Land continued it’s vision of land reform by breaking into numerous foreclosed homes and moving families into them.
Commemoration events include a Street Party on Friday, October 21 starting at 6:00pm at 6124 NW 18th Ave. in Liberty City; a Community Discussion and Workshop addressing gentrification, housing, police brutality and other issues in Liberty City. The discussions begin at 1:00pm on Saturday, October 22 at the Miami Workers Center, 754 NW 54th St. in Liberty City; and a lecture and presentation about the movement for land reform and the human right to housing in the US held at the University of Miami’s Richter library, on the 3rd floor, 1300 Memorial Drive in Coral Gables. The presentation will be made by Max Rameau, one of the co-founders of Take Back the Land.
The commemoration is co-sponsored by the Miami Workers Center, Women in Leadership, the Dream Defenders, Seed305 and the Center for Pan-African Development. The University of Miami event is sponsored by the University of Miami Libraries- Special Collections, the Office of Civic and Community Engagement and the American Studies Program.
In spite of numerous promises to build housing on the property, the land on which the Umoja Village stood- 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave., remains vacant and fenced in 10 years later.