Early in November, Sankofa Counselor Derrick Ross took 10 students to the two-day Umoja XII Conference in Los Angeles. This was the first time Merritt students attended, and it was an eye-opening experience for them to be among so many of their peers. More than 300 students from 35 different California community colleges attended the event hosted by the Los Angeles Community College District.
Umoja (a Kiswahili word meaning unity) is a community and critical resource dedicated to enhancing the cultural and educational experience of African American and other students. That meaning was evident at the conference where students were inspired by such speakers as Tavis Smiley, late-night tv host and author of 21 books, as well as by workshops they attended, from community building to educating through mentorships.
One of the most memorable aspects of the conference for the students was the opportunity to meet, talk to, and learn from students from throughout the state and share experiences.
Chioma Nwachukwu says the experience was like an epiphany for her. “I really enjoyed seeing multiple people from different age groups—thousands of beautiful, positive people who came together. One speaker touched on knowing your way in life and what you’re supposed to do and looking for signs to follow your dreams. As I was contemplating all of that, I ended up meeting a Nigerian woman on the plane home who spent time helping me with aligning my goals and leading me closer to what I want to do.”