Umoja promotes Black excellence despite lack of visibility

Ruby Veloz, Staff Reporter

The word “Umoja” is a Kiswahili word meaning unity. 

This is what Claudia Barbosa, counselor and coordinator of Umoja at De Anza said she is trying to build among the black student population on campus.

As of the fall quarter of 2019, De Anza only had 4% of its students identify a Black or African American according to the Foothill-De Anza Demographic Worksheet.

One of the biggest challenges facing black students on campus is a lack of representation and visibility Barbosa said.

“Umoja frames the work that African American students need especially in areas where they’re not seen,” she said. “And in every community college, we’re not seen because education really stops for a lot of African Americans by high school,” Barbosa said.

The organization looks to tribal rituals from Africa and translates those principles to fit into the lives of black students. 

The Office of Equity, as well as the Office of Outreach, were sponsors of the recent Black Lives Matter Week of Action which ran from Feb. 3 to 7 which included the event “Talking Circle: Brown Solidarity with Black Lives Matter” which was co-sponsored with Umoja.

Adriana Garcia, an administrative assistant in the Office of Equity, was inspired by the national conversation surrounding Black Lives Matter to create events on campus.

“I want to believe that our campus can show up in solidarity for the black community. Colleagues and students alike,” Garcia said. “I want to show this other part where there are black folks that are thriving and can model a sense of liberation despite the systemic oppression of black people.” 

Despite the desire for representation, the recent DASB budget proposal cuts Umoja’s funds which include student payroll and printing but leaves $5,000 for the sole use of domestic conferences and travel.

Still, Garcia said she wants to believe that De Anza can show up in solidarity for the black community.

“Our office is very much about intersectional solidarity,” said Anthony Santa Ana, the program coordinator at the Office of Equity.  

“Like, how do we show up, and how do we uplift and bring light and sometimes get out of the way for different communities and magnify that?” said Santa Ana. 

The De Anza campus includes services and assistance programs for several disadvantaged groups including Latinx Empowerment At De Anza, Higher Education for AB 540 Students and the Jean Miller Resource Room.

“I would love to see the same effort we give DACA students, for Latino students, for Asian students, I would like to see the same effort for black students,” Barbosa said.