LaKeisha Wolf, Executive Director of Ujamaa Collective discusses the history of the collective and its plans to expand. Vernon and Lakeisha also discuss the role that Ujamaa Collective plays in the community, and how it has incorporated the needs of the community to create other cooperatives, which is in keeping with the meaning of it’s name.
Ujamaa is the fourth of the seven Nguzo Saba principles of Kwanzaa, and it means Cooperative Economics. Vernon and Lakeisha also discuss the other six principles of Kwanza and how their meanings are used as guiding principles of life.
As a first-generation Pittsburgher, LaKeisha Wolf has developed her roots across the community working at the intersection of social justice, arts, culture and entrepreneurship. She is a founding member of the Hill District based non-profit Ujamaa Collective, serving as Executive Director since 2013. In this role, LaKeisha focuses on the business affairs and cooperative development of emerging Africana women-owned craft industries. She has over 17 years’ experience in community, organizational and leadership development, consulting with numerous organizations including Sankofa Community Empowerment, Inc., Community Human Services Corporation, The Legacy Arts Project, Inc., and the Alliance for Police Accountability. LaKeisha holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Penn State University (2001) where she served as Black Caucus President, helping to establish the State of Pennsylvania’s first Africana Research Institute at PSU. In addition, she’s also a graduate of NASCO Institute’s Emerging Cooperative Leaders Program.
Ujamaa Collective Marketplace opened its 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. 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.