Getting down for a good cause

WMC Meets Liberty City at the Umoja Village Shanty-Down

Since it was erected last fall from scraps of wood and sheet metal, Liberty City's Umoja Village shantytown — which currently houses 50 residents - has managed to keep close to whatever's hot in Miami. During the Superbowl, Umoja residents staged demonstrations, calling national attention to the city's lack of affordable housing; in the wake of scandal surrounding the Miami-Dade Housing Agency's misuse of funds, Umoja homesteaders again lured the media spotlight to their little plot of land.

So it should come as no surprise that as the Winter Music Conference descended upon Miami, Umoja made sure once more to get a piece of the action. Sunday night, as folks lined up — the poor suckers - to pay twenty bucks or more to get into South Beach WMC venues — the Doubtree Surfcomber, Mynt, Ink Boutique, etc. -- NYC's DJ Scribe was spinning for free at the shantytown.

"In New York, there's such a high appreciation threshold," Scribe told New Times, lounging on one of the couches used by potential residents who have been put on a wait-list to get their own home in the Village. For Scribe, the appreciation threshold was appreciably relaxed at Umoja: residents, earnest college kids, and scrappy local activist-types mingled, shook their asses on the dirt dance floor with greater and lesser degrees of dexterity, and generally had a hoot of a time as Scribe and other guests spun from inside a small tent. Outside the shantytown, neighbors lounged on their porches.

"It's just, you know, to get together and spread the love," said Jeanila, a Liberty City native who studies at the National School of Technology and spends her free time helping out at the shantytown. "It's wonderful people, people you'd never get to meet otherwise."

Max Rameau, who founded Umoja and who masterminds the community's political activism, said it this wasn't the first party at the shantytown, "but this was definitely the best." --Isaiah Thompson

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