Ryan Poon /The Highlander

The first ever virtual Umoja Day was hosted by Umoja at UCR on Wednesday, Nov. 18. The word “Umoja” means “unity” in Swahili, and Umoja at UCR is a club meant to help bring unity and community to African American students on campus, as well as enriching their educational experience. On Umoja day, the community came together and created an inspiring and event filled evening. 

While waiting for the event to begin, many attendees were greeted by Allura Davis, a UCR admissions counselor whose upbeat and happy attitude transcended the screen and allowed everyone to feel comfortable and happy. Alongside her was DJ Jwett, who played some bops. The two were very welcoming, and in no time I found myself vibing with them. It was a great way to start the evening. 

Once the event began, Davis introduced a few inspiring keynote speakers to discuss the origins of Umoja and the reason for being at the event. Jennifer Brown, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, was one of the keynote speakers present at the event and she welcomed event goers by giving some insight on the origins of Umoja. According to Brown, “Umoja is about community and welcoming folks in.” 

Myia Williams was another speaker who discussed Umoja. Williams’ speech was inspirational and further discussed the importance of community and unity by using an African proverb which states, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” which embodies the values of Umoja Day. Especially when pursuing an educational career, it is important to be with others in order to excel, and that is exactly what Umoja Day and Umoja at UCR strive to do: to recruit African American students and give them the resources needed to succeed, and most importantly, to not be alone. It is something beautiful and inspiring, and hearing it made me feel loved. 

Brian Haynes, vice chancellor of student affairs, and Kendrick Davis, associate dean of assessment and evaluation at the UCR School of Medicine, were some of the other keynote speakers who made impactful statements. At one point during Hayne’s speech, many people in the chat section were sharing their experience and the moments from his speech that gave them chills. One of these statements included, “We can overcome anything.” Overall, these keynote speakers each helped create a meaningful evening. 

After these speakers, there were also student panelists, including the president of Umoja at UCR, Katryna Wallace, Michael Paster, vice president and their social media coordinator, Katie Lynn, who shared their experiences at UCR and answered student questions. It was great listening to them speak about how Umoja has impacted their lives. 

Lastly, there were some breakout sessions and booths with different clubs and organizations, such as African Student Programs, Black Student Union, Graduate School of Education, R’Pantry and many more to welcome attendees and give information about transferring to UCR. 

Overall, the first ever virtual Umoja Day at UCR was a great success and was extra special due to the fact UCR is the first UC to have Umoja on campus and we will be able to witness its growth.