Episode 57: Mama Shu’s Story: Building an Eco-Village, Turning Grief into Joy, and the Power of Community

Shamayim “Mama Shu” Harris, Founder of Avalon Village

Shamayim “Mama Shu” Harris is a woman of many talents and she’s lived what seems like many different lives. Mama Shu is a mother, a community activist, a former school administrator, she’s the first female chaplain with the Highland Park Police Department, she’s chairwoman of the Highland Park Charter Commission, and she is the founder and CEO of Avalon Village in Highland Park. 

Mama Shu is now building a 21st-century sustainable eco-village within Metro Detroit, aka Avalon Village. The dream of building this urban oasis was manifested after the tragic loss of her son, Jakobi, who was killed by a hit and run driver in 2007 at the age of two. Rather than fall into despair, Mama Shu chose to heal and honor Jakobi’s memory by transforming blight to beauty, she decided to revitalize her own community, make it a safer and better place for children to live, and she turned her grief into joy!

Mama Shu assembled a team of engineers, futurists, artists, urban farmers, volunteers and donors from around the world to help build Avalon Village, a sustainable eco-village on Avalon Street between Woodward and Second. The village currently owns 20 parcels of land and 4 houses with plans to acquire more property. 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, HLN, Detroit’s ABC, NBC, and FOX TV affiliates, WWJ, WJR, WDET and 910AM radio, and in People Magazine, Huffington Post, The Detroit News, Crain’s Detroit Business and numerous other print and online publications. Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres gifted Mama Shu a prefabricated house which now serves as the village headquarters.

You don’t want to miss this inspiring episode of the 1 Girl Revolution podcast, where Mama Shu shares her powerful life story, discusses the power and importance of community, why we all need to take ownership over our homes and neighborhoods, she shares more about Avalon Village, she talks about legacy, and so much more.⁣⁣

Mama Shu and her kids
Mama Shu and her Avalon Village kids

For more information on Mama Shu and Avalon Village, please visit their website.

More To Explore


Episode 216: St. Francis Ministries and St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf in Uganda – Rannah

This week on The 1 Girl Revolution Podcast we welcome our friend Rannah to the show, founder of St. Francis Ministries + the St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf in Uganda. You may be familiar with Rannah and her work because we’ve covered her through the years, but this is a powerful, inspiring, and in-depth look into how Rannah decided to go to Uganda and how St. Francis Ministries and the St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf in Uganda came to be. 

The 1 Girl Revolution Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, YouTube, and everywhere you listen to podcasts.

1 Girl Revolution red and black logo


Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest from 1GR.
No spam, ever. That’s a promise.
Newsletter Sign-Up Form


Every dollar is used to elevate inspiring women and causes.

Donation Form (#3)
$10.00 for each month
$25.00 for each month
$50.00 for each month
$75.00 for each month
$100.00 for each month
$0.00 for each month

This donation to our 501c(3) non-profit organization One Girl Revolution is tax-deductible and will support our continued work to elevate the voices and stories of world-changing women and girls.