“It was hard to shut down but we want to let everyone know we are still building the baddest non-profit on the planet! We will be coming back strong, but we need your support.”
Ali Hutley hated to close the store, but the Philadelphia Uhuru Furniture Sales & Operations Coordinator and proud member of the African People’s Socialist Party united with the mandate from The People’s War Commission to protect our staff, community, shoppers, donors and volunteers from COVID-19.
Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles (UFC) stores in Philadelphia and Oakland closed Tuesday, March 17.
These economic self-determination institutions of the African People’s Education and Defense Fund (APEDF) have been serving the African community every day for over 30 years in Oakland and 25 years in Philadelphia.
UFC creates employment for our people, hires and trains staff, partners with youth training programs and provides top quality, low priced furniture, housewares and beautiful NZO African style home decor.
UFC opens doors for thousands to participate in African self-determination, and makes Chairman Omali Yeshitela’s vision of an African workers’ economy a reality for people to see and experience.
February and March is usually a busy time of year for shoppers and preparations for the spring and summer increase of donations.
But this year, in mid-March, UFC had to lay off all our staff, cancel beautiful donations, turn away eager shoppers and send volunteers home.
With stores in both cities locked down, UFC is doing everything we can to help staff and small African businesses get access to available relief and resources.
UFC Philly offers free health info to our community even after we had to close the doors.
In January 2020, Uhuru Furniture stores on both coasts held well-attended MLK day events and volunteer projects, with speakers on the ongoing history of African resistance followed by a project to distribute thousands of door hangers and posters to promote our institutions.
The following week, Uhuru Furniture Philly hosted a press conference and community speak out to expose the toxic contamination of public school buildings with asbestos and lead which has been poisoning students and teachers for decades.
On February 28, UFC Philly hosted African Styles at Home and Abroad, a well-attended program on the meaning of African art featuring Karen Riggs, the curator of Tribal Home African gallery. This moving cultural program won many new donors and sustainers and inspired our growing team of volunteer NZO artists.
On March 12, UFC Oakland co-sponsored “Homelessness, Gentrification and Counter-Insurgency in Oakland.” Oakland is a small city, but has the 3rd largest homeless population in the U.S. which has grown by 47 percent since 2017.
The Uhuru Movement has worked against homelessness in Oakland, leading many actions since the early 1980s, including the 1984 ballot Measure O for African community control of housing.
APEDF was also forced to postpone the annual Uhuru Health Festivals in Oakland and Philadelphia. Uhuru Furniture has always played a key role in this aspect of the APEDF mission.
These all-day interactive festivals bring free health resources, exercise, dance, music, nutrition, children’s activities and free testing for the many diseases that plague our community.
The Uhuru Health Festivals uplift and bring African people together to collectively solve our devastating health problems brought about by colonialism.
UFC and the institutions of African self-determination are more important than ever. The UFC team is working even harder now that we’re closed, to keep these institutions strong and to do everything we can to make sure our supporters stay safe and well.
We have been activating our large and enthusiastic base to strengthen Uhuru Furniture and the more than 50 institutions of African self-determination, led by the office of Deputy Chair Ona Zené Yeshitela, to feed, clothe and house African people.
Both Oakland and Philadelphia stores are experiencing a tremendous outpouring of support from our customers of all walks of life. We are reaching our base by phone and organizing online.
The sign on Oakland UFC’s door has generated many donations and support.
Every day donations reach the Oakland store from neighbors who saw our window signs. Chaya donated and said “I can’t let UFC close! I really appreciate Uhuru for standing up for the community hardest hit in a crisis like this. And where else would I get all my great furniture?”
Philly won donations through emails, and Facebook livestreams. Volunteers have enthusiastically united with whatever we have called on them to do. UFC Philly shopper and donor Miss Aminata said, “I want to see Uhuru in existence forever!”
Uhuru Furniture stores are African self-determination institutions that are part of the fast moving Black Power Blueprint strategy to replace the oppressive economy under this system with a new system that serves and benefits the African community.
At some point this virus will be contained, but the struggle and necessity for African self-determination will keep moving forward to create a new positive cultural and economic life for African people in our own hands.
The staff that makes UFC Oakland a success