Things to Know – Friday, May 26, 2017

Today is Commencement Day – A Day to Celebrate our student’s achievement, and our role in supporting students. I always believe this is the best day of the year as we celebrate student’s “rite of passage” (a ceremony or event marking an important stage in someone’s life, especially birth, puberty, marriage, and death). Over 830 Southwestern College students (SWC) are choosing to walk. I am looking forward to hearing what our final numbers are for graduates and will share.

Last night, SWC The Exponential Learning Academy (TELA) transitioned through a “Right of Passage” to the Umoja Program. Janelle Williams was honored as the founder of the TELA Program in 2007 – Celebrating 10 years. Janelle, thank you for your sensitivity to student needs and vision.

Link to the TELA Program

Link to Umoja

Umoja students transferring and graduating were honored in an emotional ceremony.

Dr. Darrick Smith, keynote speaker gave a riveting talk about African and African American history and the power of perseverance and personal responsibility. He recognized the California community college’s role as a catalyst for social change.

Link to Dr. Darrick Smith Video

A few weeks ago, Myesha Jackson shared her exploration into Umoja and I asked if I could share her email with you. I learned a lot and today seems to be appropriate to share the seven principles, or Nguzo Saba are a set of ideals created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. These are principles worth sharing and remembering. Words of wisdom for the future.

From Myesha….

This morning I was asked, “Myesha, do you know what UMOJA stands for?” My answer, “no.” I was able to laugh at myself and keep from showing my embarrassment at the same time. Why? Because I am wearing a shirt and jacket with the word “UMOJA” on it! Call myself representing… I should know what it stands for!

My homework assignment was to do my research and I did some. Now I want to share with you all what I have learned as part of the new “Did you know…?” Black History Series. Many of you know a lot more than I do, so If you do not which to receive these emails, please email me directly and I will remove you from the list.  If you would like to share your knowledge with the Alliance, please email me directly to share on your behalf. Thanks bunches! 

Please read when you have time…

Definitions of UMOJA: 

1.     Umoja is the Swahili word for “unity”. It may also refer to: MV Umoja, a Lake Victoria ferry in East Africa. Umoja, a name given to one of the 60 class locomotives of the East African Railways.

2.     For starters, “umoja” is Swahili word which means “unity”, and is one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa, the annual celebration (December 26 – January 1) of African-American heritage founded by Maulana (Ron) Karenga.



Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa in 1966. After the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Dr. Karenga searched for ways to bring African-Americans together as a community. He founded US, a cultural organization, and started to research African “first fruit” (harvest) celebrations. Karenga combined aspects of several different harvest celebrations, such as those of the Ashanti and those of the Zulu, to form the basis of Kwanzaa.


The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder), then one of the seven principles is discussed. The principles, called the Nguzo Saba (seven principles in Swahili) are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing community among African-Americans. Kwanzaa also has seven basic symbols which represent values and concepts reflective of African culture. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.


The seven principles, or Nguzo Saba are a set of ideals created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Each day of Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle.

The candle-lighting ceremony each evening provides the opportunity to gather and discuss the meaning of Kwanzaa. The first night, the black candle in the center is lit (and the principle of umoja/unity is discussed). One candle is lit each evening and the appropriate principle is discussed.


The seven principles, or Nguzo Saba are a set of ideals created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Each day of Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle.

1.     Unity: Umoja (oo–MO–jah)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

2.     Self-determination: Kujichagulia (koo–gee–cha–goo–LEE–yah)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

3.     Collective Work and Responsibility: Ujima (oo–GEE–mah)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.

4.     Cooperative Economics: Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

5.     Purpose: Nia (nee–YAH)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

6.     Creativity: Kuumba (koo–OOM–bah)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

7.     Faith: Imani (ee–MAH–nee)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.



Excerpted from the book: The Complete Kwanzaa Celebrating Our Cultural Harvest. Copyright 1995 by Dorothy Winbush Riley. Reprinted with permission from Harper Perennial, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Striving for unity, 

Faculty, staff, administrators, and Governing Board – Thank you for commitment, dedication, and hard work to ensure the success of our @SWC students. The work we do at Southwestern College is making a difference, one student at a time. We serve the students who need us the most, and you were there for them. Congratulate our students, and congratulate each other – this is the best day of the year….Again thank you, it is an honor to serve with you.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” —Mark Twain