Familiar with hard times, scarcity, and uncertainty, the men at Ujamaa Place faced the COVID-19 pandemic head-on. Located in Saint Paul, Ujamaa Place serves primarily African American men, ages 18-30.

Historically, for Black people, music has provided healing during times of struggle. It has provided a means of storytelling and documentation. “Tapping into ancestral strength and guidance, in the wake of the George Floyd murder, during an unprecedented health and economic crisis, Ujamaa Place Music Therapy program has formed Ujamaa Music Group (UMG), a hip hop/soul group on a mission to uplift, empower, and change lives through music,” said Monique Linder, CEO of OMG Media Solutions. “To see the men on the other side of transformation, doing something they love, in an effort to help others, is a blessing and a miracle that I feel honored to witness,” said Linder.

UMG will be in concert at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair.

“UMG is at the heart of what the State Fair’s Celebration of Culture and Community is all about, an inclusive experience, where all cultures are welcomed and celebrated,” said Renee Alexander, Deputy General Manager, Entertainment and Marketing at the Fair.

“Their story of resilience resonates with a lot of people right now having survived a pandemic. I think that will really come across through their performance and touch a lot of hearts in the audience,” said Linder.

UMG released their first song “On A Mission” on January 25, 2021. Since then, under the direction of their mentor, Kirk Johnson aka Mr. KAJ, UMG has been busy writing music and rehearsing for performances, in addition to attending their other required programming at Ujamaa Place. Ujamaa Men enroll in the Theory of Transformation program model, which gives participants access to over 30 transformation services and a coach to support them during their transformation journey, all provided at no cost to participants. 

Bayo, a Ujamaa Man since 2017, employed at Ujamaa Place and a founding member of UMG, says his experience with UMG has so far felt like a dream. “I blinked once, and we were releasing our first single and filming a music video.  I blinked again and we were performing our first gig. I blinked again and we were performing at Paisley Park, and now we are rehearsing to perform on one of our biggest stages yet at the Minnesota State Fair,” said Bayo. “I am grateful to Ujamaa Place for supporting our vision and helping turn our dream into a reality. We know this wouldn’t have been possible without the resources, support and encouragement of Ujamaa Place and our community.”

UMG performs a six free shows on the International Bazaar Stage on September 1 and 2 at 10:45am, 12noon and 1:15pm.

For more information, visit: https://ujamaaplace.org/ujamaa-music-group/

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