“Early in the development of the Umoja Community, a group of faculty created a collection of pedagogical, communication, and cultural practices that represent a shared wisdom in language that resonated with the African American community. The Umoja Practices© weave together into a multi-colored fabric of community and connection. That fabric stretches to include students’ and educators’ lives at college campuses and beyond and are the foundation for all the Umoja Community affiliated colleges. These practices are the foundation of the Affiliated College programs on California Community Colleges.”
Below are our top four practices that we strive to maintain. To read about all of the Umoja Practices©, follow the link to the Umoja community website: umojacommunity.org/umoja-practices
OCCUPY STUDY SPACES ON CAMPUS
Studying in the Village – a dedicated, welcoming Umoja space where students study and spend time together – builds community and nurtures academic success. Designed by students and staff, the Umoja village is a sacred space that offers opportunities to increase exposure to historical and cultural experiences from the African diaspora. The Umoja village is an expression of and celebration of our students’ voices and model for how students can approach their homework. Encouraging, even requiring, studying on campus works well with our students because it models, practices and affirms sustained and effective study habits for our students. We must positively and actively foster studying, deep concentration and creativity for our students to be successful in their academic pursuits.
To say at all times “What Is Really Going On Here,” a learning environment should be open, respectful, playful; there should be argument, dissection and revision. It should be personal, political and philosophical. The porch can often be candid and sometimes even painful. Storytelling is privileged and sometimes song breaks out. Porchtalk invites humor, noise, sometimes unruliness. A classroom with such honesty and visibility can produce frustration and also acceptance. Needless to say, trust is at the foundation of a Porchtalk learning environment and trust has to be earned, modeled, practiced, openly reflected upon, and revisited. Porchtalk is intentional, for example, the instructor looks for an opportunity to draw out, celebrate and dignify the quieter students, so all the voices in the room make up the porch. The porch is a place where our students safely communicate and advocate for themselves.
How does the student reproduce what you do in class with their friends, family, and community? Students should be able to put into practice what they’re learning in your class. They should intentionally bring their learning into the community and share with family, folks that support them, friends who could benefit and be edified by the Umoja consciousness. The practice of manifesting intends to make sure that all of what we do in our programs is applied, connected, and relevant to the students’ lives, and that the learning manifests inside the identity-spirit and mind of the students. The question: “How is this manifesting in a way that is helping them survive in their daily lives?” is part of the consciousness of all Umoja practitioners and in turn a part of our students’ consciousness so they can take their learning with them outside our campuses.
We are a village, acting in accord, and unafraid to be seen and heard as we do our work, leveraging every voice and source of information to do our best by our students. We gather and share information about our students. As Umoja professionals, we feel that including everybody in our distinct disciplines and work duties shares knowledge and builds commitment. In Umoja a counselor is an English teacher, a Math teacher is in the history class, an administrative assistant is a tutor and everybody is a coordinator. We know what each other is up to, in an intimate, detailed way, so that we can support and reinforce each other. We cover and pitch in on each other’s work, even while we maintain our areas of expertise. When a program event or program need comes up, we all inquire and support. And particularly when it comes to our students, we all stay aware of their progress, their challenges and crises, and their successes.