Kwanzaa 2011 – Principle #3: Ujima

Finding Ujima at College
By Bren Herrera

Ujima (oo-JEE-mah), “Collective work and responsibility,” Helping others within the community

I’ve been lucky enough to live in a number of different places. When we came to the states, I was in New York, then we moved to Miami, and finally settled in Cleveland, Ohio where I would spend the rest of my childhood until college. Cleveland was very different than the other cities in many ways. For starters, it was an older, midwestern city surrounded by one of the Great Lakes that brought dreadful snowstorms during the winter. But, what stood out to me the most, as a child was the lack of diversity followed by the segregation.

There were three kinds of people in Cleveland: Black, White, and Middle Eastern. Everyone stuck to his or her own kind and that was it; outsiders were rarely welcome. What you looked like usually also meant what part of town you would live in. There were white schools and black schools or white movie theaters and black movie theaters. Of course, there were no signs mandating “whites only‚” it was just the way things were done there. People liked to stick to their own kind.

I remember feeling like such an outsider there. For one thing, my parents decided to rent a house in the “white” part of town making us the only brown skinned family for blocks. So, of course I went to an all white school. I didn’t feel like I belonged in that community. Instead, I felt like we had no community.  Read more…

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