Grantee Spotlight: Ujima Company

Ujima Company Overview

 

Executive Director: Lorna Hill
Staff: 3 along with various contractual teaching artists
Annual Operating Budget: $189,395

Mission: Ujima Company is a multi-ethnic and multicultural professional theatre whose primary purpose is the preservation, perpetuation, and performance of African American theatre by providing working opportunities for established artists and training experience for aspiring artists.

How their work fits the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo’s Community Goals:
II: Increase racial/ethnic equity
IV2: Increase access to long term arts instruction for children and youth living in low-income households.
IV3: Increase opportunities for residents to engage across racial/ethnic lines through the arts.

 

About Ujima Company

 

Established in December 1978, Ujima Company participates in community building through the production of outstanding quality theatre, featuring the narratives of the unheard, under-represented, and under-served, especially people of color and those experiencing poverty.

Ujima uses theatre as a tool to shape and reflect people’s lives and provides affordable professional theatre productions and training opportunities for those who have limited access to participation in the arts. The theatre continues to network with like-minded artists across the country to build awareness of national conditions and raise the voices of those that are less commonly heard in the main stream.

Ujima has produced plays based on the needs and requests of the community with themes including war, religion, women in gangs, and genocide utilizing theatre as a tool to build understanding of theworld; the ways in which people adapt and survive; how they resist oppression and manifest resilience. At the same time, Ujima makes sure that all stories, no matter how dire, are uplifting, honest themes featuring plenty of laughter, music, and dance.

Ujima’s priorities include:
•Producing and performing theatre that reflects the lives of African Americans, people of color, and marginalized communities
•Providing employment opportunities for artists
•Presenting the work of new artists and performing arts groups
•Providing young people with experiential training in theatre
•Serving as a resource to support positive values necessary for the development of the community.

Currently, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo is providing support for Ujima’s Dunbar Project. From their new location in School 77 on Buffalo’s West Side, youth from this diverse neighborhood are recruited to participate in weekly lessons and materials from a team of professional artists who have significant performance and teaching experience. Over 50 youth take part in this year-long after school curriculum that has transitioned online during the COVID-19 crisis. The participants are identified through partnerships with various non-profits in the area, such as People United for Sustainable Housing (aka PUSH), Peace of the City, and Young Audiences of Western New York. The program is free and includes one-on-one mentoring, exclusive access to live classes and special engagements, and material support including instruments, equipment, and technology access. In return for their children’s scholarship, parents are asked to volunteer their time to support the program in various ways. Each youth has over 340 hours total instruction in theatre by the end of the year.

In addition Ujima has produced the play entitled the Legacy of Lead based on real Buffalo citizens who have had their lives negatively affected by Buffalo’s lead paint issue. Created in conjunction with the Community Foundation led Healthy Homes Task Force, this powerful play is meant to provoke discussion of the impact of Buffalo’s lead legacy. The radio version of this play is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAOPtWFq0lU

Thank you to Ujima Company and our generous donors who made this program possible.