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Nia Umoja

Despite her harried schedule as a mom-of-four, wife and owner of a children’s clothing store (she designs all the duds herself!), Nia Umoja is a green mama on a mission – a mission to bridge the cultures of Fort Worth and beyond, starting with children. Whether she’s putting in a hard day’s work at her sewing machine or helping with homework, Umoja poses a fresh (and for some, much more attainable) outlook on “going green.” Her stance: Learn about your neighbors.

Starting the waves of change in her own home, Umoja strives to instill global awareness in her own children by diversifying their bedtime stories or sparking discussions with her kids about the family’s African and Caribbean heritage. The husband and wife team also play capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian blend of martial art, dance and song, with their little ones.

At work, the mom keeps her focus on community by nurturing store patrons with cultural projects, such as off-beat music performances, arts and crafts projects or special guests from foreign countries. “It’s more than a business to me,” she says, “… I’m not doing it to make a profit. It’s about people and planet. It’s my little thing that I’m doing to make a difference.”

What She Does
Umoja’s career spawned from her frustration in dressing her spunky daughter, Aida (who’s now 9-years-old). “Cultural, ethically made clothing did not exist. I wanted something to fit her personality – so I started making her clothes myself, using textiles that fit my expectations,” the chemist-turned-designer explains.

Umoja’s green expectations span beyond organic-only fashions. Eco-friendly and culturally-friendly fabrics (also known as fair trade) suite her discretionary eye. After years of laboring over her sewing machine (she’s a self-taught seamstress!) Umoja completed a girl’s clothing line – now she’s looking to design fashions for boys and infants. But, with four children (ages 18-months to 9) “it will probably take a while; it’s a slow-going project.” In the meantime, moms across Fort Worth are taking notice and snatching up the culturally-infused dresses, tops and other handmade wares.

Outside of designing clothes and operating her store, the community-minded mom is working to organize the Harambee Sewing Cooperative, a group of trained seamstresses who will work to help the production of Umoja’s clothes. Harambee, which means “let’s pull together” in Swahili, perfectly describes the group, Umoja says. “There are many, many refugee women in our community who wish to learn different trades and work to earn a living – this is a great way to achieve that, and work to create a culture bridge.”

How She Does It

As you’ve probably guessed, this goal-oriented mom is not a one-man show; she credits her success and inspiration to her husband and children, who all work (and play!) in the store and in her home office/sewing room. “I became really creatively driven when I was pregnant with my first daughter. That inspiration continues as I see my children grow,” she says.

To drive Umoja’s mission home, the vegan family of six lives a very eco-friendly lifestyle. And, while she admits the “green” lifestyle isn’t fit for all, she says her goals are aligned with those of many parents: to instill a value system in children that make them more globally-aware. “My clothes and volunteer work will hopefully bridge the different cultures in our nation and in our city. This bridge will help our children interact, have tolerance with and relate to other nations much better than what we do now.”