People are gathered at tables, painting beautiful pictures of logos, nature and space. Doing art work together, with shiny, multicolored balloons floating around the room as the soundtrack of the movie “Black Panther” played in the background. It is only one of the many events happening this February, including African dances, black history game night, and a hip hop forum.
The festival was sponsored by Ujima, Blackademia, and ASPCC and was located in the CC building. The Ujima Festival occurred on Thursday, February 28 and was held at the wifi lounge.
“Ujima is a Swahili word for ‘Collective work and responsibility’. It is under the umbrella of Pathways,” said Debra Turner, the Ujima lead academic coach. “We help bridge the gap between high school and college whether it’s help with reading, or if students need a tutor, or an academic coach like myself, that’s when all these extra Pathways programs come in.”
Ujima was founded 20 years ago by Jacqueline Dodds. It was designed to empower black students and to help them navigate the college system, and then it evolved into Ujima being a Pathway that went from 30 students to now serving well over 200.
“According to data, students, particularly students of color, do better and are more successful when they have a support system, when they have a place where they can engage in one another, in a safe space for them to grow, thrive, and express themselves,” Ujima director, Gena Lopez said.
Ujima celebrations happen annually at Pasadena City College. Students were found smiling while painting canvas’ with symbols and messages they think reflect Black excellence and culture.
“This event is important because it gives students the opportunity to reflect on their culture, on their history, to engage in one another in a fun, inviting environment,” Lopez said. “It also taps into their creative side, because we have painting, and African face painting, and I think that the conversations that go on among the students are very meaningful.”
For many students and former students, celebrating Ujima has become a recurring event, like for District Representative for Senator Anthony J. Portantino, Dominick Correy, who came to show his support because when he was a PCC student, he was also part of Ujima.
“It’s a group of people who look like you, listen to the same music as you and it gives us a way to connect and support each other as we go through our college journey,” Correy said.
The atmosphere is one of familiarity, and camaraderie. Occasionally, a group of people boasts a loud laughter, and then they continue to paint and do art work together.
“Today we are celebrating how far the black community has come throughout history, and our culture,” PCC student Tori Johnson said. “What we went through, how far we have come, and how far we are still going. It’s very easy to feel lost here, but when we can all come together and celebrate together, it gives you a sense of belonging. Everybody needs a sanctuary, and Ujima is that for the black people here.”