American identity – Ahamu Umi gives MLK Day keynote

December 2021 Posted in Arts, Culture & History

Ahjama Umi

When African-American racial and social justice activist Ahjama Umi saw a gang of conservative white motorcyclists roar in at a funeral he was attending for one of its members, he didn’t feel intimidated or threatened. He saw an opportunity for dialogue on issues likely foreign to the gang. That’s how Umi works: transform a culture through dialogue, getting people to see and think in ways they didn’t before.

Umi will give the keynote address – “Does American Identity = White Supremacy?” – for the 19th Annual Silverton Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Observance on Monday, Jan. 17 at 6 p.m., via Zoom (5:45 p.m. sign-in). Readings and song will be part of the program. 

It is sponsored by the Silverton Grange and Silverton People For Peace and is free and open to the public. Early registration  is encouraged at 

Whether by conducting workshops on the history of slavery and white supremacy and the realities of racism, or by writing books (three novels, with two set in Oregon, and two non-fiction books), Umi is dedicated to ending racism and prejudice. He seeks to do that by creating sensitivity and inclusion for minorities in a predominately white society. He also trains oppressed communities and cultures to stand up for themselves.

With a master’s in economics, Umi began working in the banking industry. After the economic implosion of 2008, he went to working against it as a housing justice activist in Portland to keep families in their homes when foreclosures skyrocketed. 

Later, as an organizer for Service Employees International, the largest labor union in Oregon, Umi developed and conducted workshops on the history of white supremacy and racial injustice. Umi credits the Black Panthers in Oakland for straightening him out as a teenager and giving him a passion for social and racial justice. The Panthers also ignited in Umi an interest in Pan-Africanism and Africa’s self-determination as it shook off European colonialism. Through multiple trips to Africa Umi witnessed and supported African solidarity for self-determination. One of his fondest experiences there was ringing a cow bell to alert striking miners that soldiers were coming.

Umi’s non-fiction works include A Guide for Organizing Defense against White Supremacy, Patriarchal, and Fascist Violence and Mass Incarceration: It’s About Profits, Not Justice, his published master’s thesis.

Two of his novels are set in Bend, Oregon: Find The Flower that Blossoms, and its sequel, The Courage Equation,  which explore white supremacy, African identity, institutional racism, women’s empowerment, rape culture, and how to persevere through adversity. His latest is The Paradox Principles, continues the story in Ghana. 

Umi hopes his workshops and writing will educate and motivate people toward political and social change for a better world for all races. Umi implores people to approach his efforts with an open mind. But, as with the motorcycle gang, he may seize the chance to initiate dialogue.

For more information on the event, call 971-343-2713.

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