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Boston Umija Project hosts virtual community assemblies

The Boston Ujima Project kicked off its 2021 Citywide Assembly, “We Be Knowin’: A Boston Ujima Project Celebration of Everyday Democracy” Sunday — a series of cultural events and  collective community planning designed to honor local communities.

Boston Ujima Project’s virtual “Meditations on Love with Black Cotton Club” event Sunday. The Boston City Council endorsed Ujima’s week-long “We Be Knowin’” webinar series, which began Sunday and continues through next Monday. HANNAH YOSHINAGA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The Boston City Council voted unanimously to formally recognize the event at a Wednesday meeting and encourage residents to virtually participate.

The Boston-based Ujima Project aims to recenter economic power and strengthen economic control among low-income communities and communities of color, according to the organization’s Facebook page.

“‘We Be Knowin’’ is a celebration of all that honors the experience, expertise, expressions of our community,” said James Vamboi Jr., Umija’s chief of staff, community and culture, during a Sunday night livestream. “We gather to make decisions about our community [and] learn from our people.”

City Councilor-At-Large Annissa Essaibi George introduced the resolution to recognize the event to the Council Wednesday.

“Throughout this week, there will be powerful events with some of our leading artists and writers, including Boston’s Poet Laureate, Porsha O.,” Essaibi George said. “I strongly encourage everyone to virtually tune in.”

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, “Meditations on Love” — the first virtual event — was a musical performance by the Black Cotton Club celebrating different genres and jazz classics.

“We celebrate Black love that we give to others and also ourselves,” Black Cotton Club curator and poet Priscilla Azaglo said. “Whatever we told ourselves that we have to look like, whether we have to be cool, collected, whatever, we let all of that go. And today, we just be.”

The group’s jam session was an interactive experience. Performers invited the audience to answer questions about what love means to them in the comment section.

Beyond music, each night of the week, members from different towns and businesses in the state will lead panels about their experiences. These one to two-hour discussion sessions will cover topics from community economics to political activism.

Eval Silvera, one of the co-founders of Brockton Beer Company, is leading a discussion Wednesday about brewing culture alongside Kevin Merritt of Raynham’s Crue Brew Brewery.

Silvera said he plans on sharing his story about how he ventured into brewery and answering questions from attendees about how to start their own venture and what they can expect.

“[Ujima] reached out to see if we were interested in telling our story along with other Black-owned breweries that are in the state,” Silvera said. “We were like, ‘let’s go for it.’ … We do have some things that we could share from our journey right now that could potentially inspire others, so I’m all for it.”

Silvera said he hopes his story inspires others to pursue their passion and work toward achieving their goals.

“I want to make sure that that story gets shared and people understand that it is attainable,” he said. “It’s inspiring to have someone that may look like you take the step of trying to start a business on their own and a business that’s really focused on community as well.”

Other events include a Tuesday “Neighborhood Needs Workshop” and a main assembly Thursday when Ujima will discuss and finalize its Citywide Investment Plan. Attendees can register for free tickets online.






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