Do you know Umoja?

By Terrence Echols and Ryan Collins

Staff Writers

The Umoja club at Jamesville-DeWitt High School promotes the culture of minority races at J-DHS. This club is inspired by the idea of “Umoja,” which means unity in Swahili, and is the inspiration for many groups across the U.S. that have similar goals. J-DHS’s Umoja club is a multicultural organization originally founded to celebrate the underepresented at J-DHS, said adviser Simone Pacilio. The club has been serving the community for about 10 years, said senior Alanna Jones, the club president, but has  kept its multicultural focus. According to the club’s mission statement, Its members continue to represent the rich and diverse community here at J-DHS. Though the club’s focus is on minorities, the club is open to all.

During the course of the year the Umoja club goes on many trips to help give students more cultural experiences than what they have in their communities. One trip will be to attend “Hairspray” at Syracuse stage in December. “I want to go not only because it is a great play and a great opportunity for students to have an experience, but also for the students to be able to see the role of segregation in the play.” Said mrs. Pacilio about the upcoming trip.  Another planned trip is to a soul food restaurant where students can enjoy classic southern foods that aren't common in the North.

However, Umoja doesn’t  just go out to experience minority culture, they also bring it to J-DHS. The  group will host its second annual soul food festival at the high school this winter to bring southern culture to J-DHS. They will use the proceeds from the fest to pay for their meals when they visit SUNY Cortland in Cortland, NY this spring.  

The club also is involved in fundraisers to benefit the community. They will be a part of The Making Strides Breast Cancer Walk on Sunday, Oct. 19 in Syracuse at Clinton Square. They will be walking for Team Daisy, which is on behalf of Spanish teacher Maria DeJesus’s aunt, Daisy Nojaim, who is a breast cancer survivor.

The Umoja club will also be a part of the NAACP toy drive in December. The NAACP is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Umoja also teams up with NAACP for a program named ACT-SO. Umoja would like to get their club members involved in ACT-SO. ACT-SO is subdivision of the NAACP and they accept work such as poetry, music, videos, and essays, and hold contest for students where they will be able to win prizes.

Students join the club for various reasons. According to president Alanna Jones, she joined the club because Umoja “is a family tradition; my sister started the club about 10 years ago. She wanted to start the club to bring (minority groups at J-DHS) together.” Vice President Afua Addo likes the message of Umoja and the life values it teaches. “I like the trips and the cultural part of the club. It sounded interesting when I was a freshman and I enjoyed it, so I decided to do it again this year,” said sophomore Gabrielle Tanksley. The club recently had elections where they elected senior Patrece Martin as the treasurer, sophomore Maddie Pereira as secretary and senior Trenajah Harris as director of communications.  

They hope to continue to grow in numbers and to give students a chance to experience different cultures. If interested in joining or participating in the Umoja club, please contact Señora Pacilio in room G05.