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Ujamaa Place · About Us
Roy Barker, the nonprofit's ...
Roy Barker, the nonprofit's executive director and the driving force behind the effort, might have the toughest job in town.
But the 58-year-old Bethel College graduate and others believe it can be done.
How? Through a holistic approach that includes completing a high-school diploma equivalency and other training; stable housing; and parenting, life and employment skills.
NO SAGGING PANTS, NO DISRESPECT
The group's ultimate mission, with the help of Barker
and two trained coaches on staff who provide guidance to the men along the way, is to empower each man to become "a successful individual, father, employee and citizen."
But there's little babying here.
To graduate from the eight-month program, a participant must remain drug- and trouble-free, complete his
high school degree, demonstrate "empowerment" life skills and hold down a job for at least three months.
The high standards - they include no sagging pants, sour attitudes or disrespect - has whittled the number of participants who applied and underwent the first two weeks of orientation this year from 98 to 30.
But Barker, a curriculum-programming specialist who formerly worked as special-projects director at Twin Cities Rise, a job skills training group based in the Twin Cities, expected the drop.
"They figure they are going to get a handout, and they find out they have to work," Barker
own account, Barker
was a dope dealer and hustler who began his
life of crime as an adolescent.
grew up in a notorious housing project on Chicago's South Side and, when he
was 4 or 5, saw his
father, now an ordained minister, stab a man in self-defense.
Like Roberson, his
surrogate fathers and role models were street thugs.
spent a year in jail awaiting trial for a murder he
did not commit.
Ujamaa Place Executive Director Roy Barker, 58, is a former drug dealer from Chicago's South Side who spent a year in jail awaiting trial for murder before being exonerated.
Ujamaa Place · News
Our Executive Director, Roy Barker was interviewed by Brother Milford as part of the Black History Month Programming on KMOJ 89.9 FM Radio Station.
was a hustler, a dope dealer and a con man on Chicago's South Side for 27 years.
was arrested for a murder he
sat in lockup for a year before he
was acquitted at trial.
In that year, he
found God and started the long process of learning to love himself and then to love others.
"I think I'm a person who's worthy of love now," Barker
said of his
new life that began after he
moved to Minnesota in the summer of 1995.
"I don't think I was worthy of love then."
Barker plans to spread that love now that he
has been picked to be executive director of Ujamaa Place
, a nonprofit that organizers hope to open on gang-neutral turf in St. Paul by fall.
, 57, grew up in the housing projects on the South Side of Chicago.
was the oldest of 11 kids and had to grow up quickly.
"As an adolescent having adult responsibilities, I also thought I had adult liberties," he
was running cons by the time he
was 10, selling drugs by the time he
As an adult, he
People crossed the street when they saw him coming.
All that changed while he
was in jail, he
mother became ill and, on her
deathbed, made him promise not to hurt another person.
"You can't sell drugs without hurting someone," Barker
"That's why I had to stop.
I loved my mama more than anybody else in life.
believed in me, even though I was this pretty bad guy, a pretty violent person.
Mama never stopped believing in me."
After moving to Minnesota, Barker eventually found Twin Cities Rise, a life skills and job training program, spearheaded by Svrluga, a decade or more ago.
Barker, who's now working on his master's degree at Bethel University, will impart the wisdom he's learned over a lifetime to the men who find their way to Ujamaa Place.
I am proud to announce the appointment of two outstanding men to lead Ujamaa Place
through its early growth and development: Chief John Harrington Rt. and Mr. Roy Barker
has accepted the position of Executive Director of Ujamaa Place
This position will focus on refining the Ujamaa Place
curriculum; hiring, training, and supervising Coaches and other staff for the program; as well as directly working with Ujamaa Place clients.
Prior to joining Ujamaa Place, Mr. Barker served as Director of Special Projects for Twin Cities RISE!, and has significant experience working with the population Ujamaa Place will be serving (young African American men primarily between the ages of 16 and 28).
Ujamaa Place · Contact
Roy Barker, Executive Director
Cell: (651) 271-7944
"These young men are often called ...
"These young men are often called the 'lost' generation," Barker said.
"They are the last to get hired, the first to go to jail … ," he said.
"These young men have been marginalized by society for so long they no longer feel the desire to fit in.
They become resigned to the fact that they will either die young on the streets or grow old in prison."
himself was once a part of the marginalized and lost generation.
His personal experience is what motivated him to establish and direct Ujamaa Place.
A native of the south side of Chicago and the oldest of 11 children, Barker
learned early on the harsh realities of survival.
"I lived in projects called Altgeld Gardens; not a very nice area to grow up in," Barker
"The fact I did well in school often made me a target for other children.
Neither learning nor education were admired there," he
mother and grandmother did not finish high school, they persistently encouraged education.
"By the time I was four, they taught me how to read," Barker
Despite coming from a stable family with both parents, and being encouraged to become educated, both parents worked two jobs, leaving him and his
siblings to survive by any means.
"As men, we seek dignity, authority and autonomy.
The way we do that is when we find ourselves in an invalidating environment with no legal force or authority, we look to illegal ways in creating that force and authority," Barker
In addition to Barker
, there are many prominent community leaders involved in Ujamaa Place
including: State Sen.
To find out more information about Ujamaa Place visit http://ujamaaplace.org/, or contact Roy Barker
via phone at 651 528-8006 or via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots.