With the help of his children and volunteers across the country offering enrichment activities from tutoring, computer classes and more, Dr. John Perkins, a preacher from Mississippi with a third grade education, started Harambee Ministries in 1982.
Harambee is a Kiswahili word that means to “let’s get together and push.” It is a rallying cry to bring neighbors together to work to solve a community’s pressing issues.
Before he established the ministry, Perkins asked his neighbors in Northwest Pasadena — a historically redlined community considered marginalized and under-resourced — what they most needed.
Their answer? “A safe place for their children to go to after school.”
The ministry was born to address this need. Over the years, as the needs of the communities evolved, the programs being offered by Harambee Ministries for the youth also expanded.
“Fast forward 40 years, a lot of what we do is meeting needs based off of relationships that we have in the community. Our staff [members] are very intimately aware of the pulse of what’s going on in the community, “said Angela Lee, Harambee Ministries Executive Director.
“So whether that’s relationships with parents, relationships with the neighbors, relationships with the school district specifically…we ask them, ‘What do you need?’ They tell us, and we do our best to meet that need,” Lee added.
In 40 years, Harambee Ministries has been many things to Pasadena residents.
“We’ve been a school, we’ve been afterschool programs, we’ve had a preschool, we’ve continued our performing arts program. We’ve had culinary programs. You name it, we’ve done it. And it’s all for the sake of helping raise up the next generation of leaders in Pasadena so that those kids can continue to help build a more just and equitable Pasadena,” said Lee.
Today, current programs of Harambee Ministries include Power Talk program, an intervention and/or prevention class focused on helping kids understand their value, how to regulate their emotions and interact in a healthy way; tutoring program called Bridging the Gap. Education, Enrichment or BEE Program where volunteers provide tutoring and do pre-test and post-test assessments and Harambee Performing Arts, where volunteers teach kids six different disciplines of performing arts.
According to Lee, currently there are about 100 participants in Harambee Ministries’ after school program. About 26 children have joined its tutoring program and between 20 and 30 kids have joined its Power Talk program.
Besides its programs for young people, Harambee Ministries also helps advocate for the needs of the community.
“We have relationships with officials in an effort to make sure that we keep a pulse on where the needs of the community are and how we can step in and advocate for those needs to be met.”
“Right now we’re participating in the North Fair Oaks project which is helping to just bring more businesses and helping build up the residential area of North Fair Oaks. We also sit down on City Council meetings,” said Lee.
Harambee Ministries hosted a gala September 30 to mark its 40th year anniversary.
About 175 people attended the gala and enjoyed cocktails and food as well as performances from special guests.
Acclaimed writer, director and producer Felicia Henderson, Harambee 2022 Community Impact Award Honoree, highlighted the community’s role in raising up the next generation of leaders in her speech.
Several items were auctioned during the event including Rose Parade tickets, Disneyland tickets, Kobe Bryant memorabilia jerseys, gift baskets and more.
According to Lee, proceeds of the sale went to Harambee Ministries’ programs, specifically its 10-week Entrepreneurship Program for high school students which will be launched this January.
“Education is not just about books, words on a page, but it really is about character, it’s about leadership, it’s about scholarship, it’s about excellence and self-worth.”
“It’s really important for us to be able to create a space for our kids to feel seen and cared for and loved and create a community for them,” said Lee.
For more information on how to support Harambee Ministries in empowering the youth and the Pasadena community, visit: https://www.harambeeministries.org