Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    Umoja-Ubaka promotes cultural awareness

    One goal is to increase transfer rate to UC campuses for Black students

    By Geremy Lowe


    The word Umoja, one of the seven principles of Kwanza, means “community,” and Ubaka, which is a Nigerian Igbo word, means “supreme wisdom and wealth.”

    Umoja-Ubaka improves the success rate for African, African-American and other students, by promoting self-awareness and community empowerment through an affirming atmosphere and culturally responsive curriculum.

    One way to make a significant impact on Black achievement in the school system is through the Umoja First Annual Leadership Summit on Aug. 2–4, 2018. The all-expenses-paid summit is held at University of California Riverside and sponsored by Umoja Community Headquarters in Sacramento, CA.

    “The mission is to serve as a critical resource for enhancing the cultural and educational experiences of students,” said Ben Njau, co-advisor of the Leadership Cohort at Umoja- Ubaka and former Umoja student.

    Njau received his Associate of Science in Natural Sciences from Laney College, and is the former president of the Inter-Club Council (ICC). As a native of Kenya, he saw a need for improvement in understanding student relations for many students.

    The transfer rate to the University of

    California for African-Americans is 7.2 percent, according to the University of California Transfer Stats for the 2011 – 2018 academic years. This prompted an evaluation of the Black experience to improve the overall success for this demographic by the Umoja-Ubaka community.

    After the initiative was implemented, the 2017–18 academic year shows a 12% transfer rate increase overall from the prior year for African-American students, Njau said. Umoja-Ubaka also deliberately recognizes student voices, social realities and histories.

    “I learned what my purpose is through Umoja,” said Lamar Bursey, an Umoja student at Laney. Bursey and other students from Laney’s Umoja-Ubaka attended the Leadership Summit.

    “Once we take this step together, there is no stopping us,” said Tom DeWit, assistant director of Umoja Community Headquarters. DeWit, along with other headquarter representatives, led the Umoja Philosophy and History summit at the event.

    The weekend was filled with one-on-one peer mentoring, self-navigation presentations, and activities to assist students in advancing Umoja at their respected community colleges.

    The event featured a “leadership walk” around the room. Led by Umoja coordinators, students identified African-American leaders such as Barack Obama, Sojourner Truth and Marcus Garvey, and interpreted what their stories represented.

    “Umoja has been a place for me to grow and develop self-confidence in academics,” said Bursey. “You have a greater chance of achieving your goals with the Umoja staff and community, who want to see you win.”

    There is still external support needed, he said. At the beginning of the spring semester, Peralta Community College District delayed releasing equity funds. These funds would have allowed many students, including Umoja, access to attend the Annual A2MEND Conference, said Bursey.

    Nevertheless, Umoja continues to encourage students and celebrate their accomplishments. Umoja-Ubaka has implemented many tools to assist students in academics, career paths, and personal development. Tutoring in Mathematics and English is available, as well as workshops on subjects like Black History and restoring the community.

    “We want to continue to see a growth in graduation and transfer rates,” said Njau. “We would like more collaboration with the BSU and all African interest groups.” The PCCD can provide more support to Umoja, giving them additional resources to reach more students.

    Being around a supportive community has helped him develop short-term and long-term goals, Bursey said, with the important notions of support and success that are embedded in the principles of Umoja-Ubaka today.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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