Avalon Village's Mission is to create a safe, nurturing, uplifting, and healing space within the City of Highland Park MI. We're doing this by converting vacant and blighted land into a valuable urban resource and providing basic living components for a quality, comfortable, and prosperous life. In addition, we provide basic services to the community to enhance traditional municipal or government services that have been reduced, eliminated or have become unaffordable.
Avalon Village is a proud partner of the
2023 CNN Hero Top 10 finalist Shamayim ‘Mama Shu’ Harris is the founder and CEO of Avalon Village in Highland Park, MI. She is a mother, a community activist, and a former school administrator, who served Detroit schools for 27+ years. Her dream of building this urban oasis was manifested after the tragic loss of her son, Jakobi RA, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2007 at the age of two.
In 2021, the unthinkable happened. She lost another child when her 23-year-old son Chinyelu was murdered on January 26.
Rather than fall into despair, Shu chose to heal and honor the memory of her sons by transforming "Blight to Beauty"™ and creating something wonderful for the people of Highland Park. She assembled a team of engineers, futurists, artists, urban farmers, volunteers, and donors from around the world who are helping to build Avalon Village, a sustainable eco-village on Avalon Street between Woodward Avenue and Second. The village currently owns 40+ parcels of land and 5 houses with plans to acquire more property as the organization grows.
These vacant, blighted lots and structures are being brought back to life as the Homework House (an after-school learning and activity center for neighborhood children), the Goddess Marketplace (an economic development initiative for women entrepreneurs), the Healing House (a center for holistic healing), a healthy cafe, activity courts, greenhouses, a micro-library and more.
This unique community-building project has received local, national, and international media attention on The Ellen Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, the Today Show, People Magazine, The New York Times, Huffington Post, Fast Company, and many other publications in Detroit and beyond. Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres even gifted Mama Shu with a prefabricated house which now serves as The Village Hall, the headquarters of Avalon Village.
Shu served as the first female chaplain with the Highland Park Police Department. She was the chairwoman of the Highland Park Charter Commission, charged with helping shape the city’s future. In addition, she served as Vice President of the Highland Park Housing Commission, president of the Highland Park Board of Education, and as an appointed member of The Michigan Commission on Community Action and Economic Opportunity, appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. She has received the Let Freedom Ring Award and numerous other local and national awards for her work.
Shu has dedicated her life to serving the people (especially children and elders) in her community, demonstrating that one person truly can make a difference, even against seemingly impossible odds, and inspiring others to live without fear and follow their dreams. Learn more at theavalonvillage.org.
Hover over each picture to learn more about the places of Avalon Village
This park is dedicated to Jakobi RA, Mama Shu's youngest son who was killed on September 23, 2007 by a hit-and-run driver. This park is the gathering place for the community for private and community events, music festivals, concerts, workshops, or event a daytime picnic with your family.
The Homework House is the tutoring center in the heart of The Village. This space is dedicated to giving the children of the community a place to come to before and after school to eat, do their homework, participate in after-school activities, and more.
The Homework House
Dedicated to Chinyelu Humphrey, Mama Shu's son who was killed on January 26, 2021, this garden and shrine is a place to sit and find peace. The beautiful rows of flowers brighten up the village with their bold array of colors. Come sit in the gazebo and spend some time taking in the beauty of The Village.
The Invincible Gardens
Donated by Ellen DeGeneres and Cacoon 9, The Village Hall is the place to do business in The Village. Like all cities, The Village Hall acts as the municipal hub "City Hall" for the important work Avalon Village conducts.
The first addition to The Avalon Village Athletic Department, My 3 Sunz Basketball Court is a place where the community can come together to exercise, play ball, have tournaments, or just let off some steam. The court is dedicated to Mama Shu's 3 Sunz who are now ancestors: Jakobi RA, Pili (Bonus Sun), and Chinyelu.
My 3 Sunz Basketball Court
The Goddess Marketplace incubates, supports, and nurtures a collective of women-owned businesses promoting self-sufficiency while increasing wealth and prosperity in the community.
The Goddess Marketplace
An addition to The Homework House, The Imhotep STEAM Lab will help foster innovative thinking in the children of our community. They will get to explore and learn about SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, ART, and MATH in a recycled shipping container that has been transformed into an eco-friendly, sustainable building.