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Shamayim ‘Mama Shu’ Harris

Founder and CEO, Avalon Village

Shamayim “Mama Shu” Harris is the founder and CEO of Avalon Village in Highland Park. Her dream of building this urban oasis was manifested after the tragic loss of her son, who was killed by a hit and run driver in 2007. Rather than fall into despair, Shu chose to heal and honor his memory 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 and Second. The village currently owns 20 parcels of land and four houses with plans to acquire more property. These vacant, blighted lots and structures are being brought back to life for community centers for homework, a marketplace, holistic healing among other community driven spaces.

Avalon Village has received local, national and international media attention on The Ellen Show, NBC Nightly News, and more. Shu also serves as the first female chaplain with the Highland Park Police Department. She is the chairwoman of the Highland Park Charter Commission, which is charged with helping shape the city’s future. In addition, she served as Vice President of the Highland Park Housing Commission.