The African People’s Education and Defense Fund (APEDF) is approaching its 25 year anniversary with a project that is supported throughout the world. This project is the latest in APEDF’s long history of developing and institutionalizing programs to address the disparities in education, health, and economic development faced by African people.
This project, the Black Power Blueprint (BPBP), is focusing on St. Louis, Missouri where the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) has organized since the August 9, 2014 murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson by police officer Darren Wilson.
There has also been a continuing resistance of African people in Ferguson and the St. Louis area since that time. The Black Power Blueprint is building concrete institutions in St. Louis that go beyond protest and will create genuine economic development for the African community.
BPBP includes the purchase and renovation of several properties in north St. Louis: a new Uhuru House African community center with Akwaaba Hall rental facility; land across from the Uhuru House for a community garden and the One Africa! One Nation! outdoor marketplace for community commerce; and a centrally located building for a licensed Uhuru Jiko commercial kitchen as the home of Uhuru Foods & Pies with a bakery/cafe, outdoor event venue, garden and food distribution center. We will also create the African Independence Workforce Program at Uhuru Jiko to train African people who have been imprisoned by the colonial state and are now looking to find employment or start a business.
The first stage of redevelopment has focused primarily on the renovation of the Uhuru House, which is a 9,000 square foot building that was abandoned for twelve years. APEDF has mobilized the community regularly to participate in Uhuru N2U Volunteer Brigade workdays to clean, paint, prep and do other renovation projects.
BPBP has also achieved widespread support from skilled laborers inspired by this African-led development to a community overrun with abandoned buildings and deep poverty. The St. Louis area painters union (District Council 58) generously donated their services to painting the ceiling and securing paint supplies. Other contractors and suppliers have sharply discounted or donated their services and materials as a show of unity. Job Corps is also sending a team of young African workers who can learn skills and participate in rebuilding our community.
It is difficult to convey the transformation of the Uhuru House. The ground level had large foot long holes in a rotting floor – holes large enough for a small child to fall through. A torn old couch and a dirty mattress surrounded with needles and hygiene products evidenced the presence of persons or families living there to escape the elements and an overall harsh life. Rotting piping required plumbers to dig several dozen feet of concrete to repair plumbing. The entire back of the building was falling apart, requiring masons to operate like surgeons to save this brick “patient.” Thousands of pounds of trash have been removed by professional demolishers and volunteers alike. This building was surrounded by other abandoned buildings and unused lots.
BPBP has purchased several of these properties and, in only a few short months, is already breathing new life into them. This once dilapidated and decaying structure now has drywall, exposed brick, beautiful lighting throughout, visible spiral duct piping for heating and cooling, new subflooring, a new roof and drainage, major brickwork, replaced windows and doors, two new furnaces, new plumbing and electricity, and a stage for community events. Visitors have commented that the building looks like a downtown loft right in the heart of a previously starving African neighborhood.
The BPBP is a plan that reclaims our African community and counteracts gentrification. It creates an independent African economy in the interests of the African poor and working class. It builds our own political and economic power to govern.
The BPBP is raising $300,000 in the first phase. Videos and photos on the Black Power Blueprint Facebook page show the progress of the renovations, the conditions in St. Louis, and our Uhuru House, Akwaaba Hall and Uhuru Jiko institutions in St. Petersburg and Oakland. To donate, volunteer, or to find out more information, visit www.apedf.org or call 314-399-9327.