Kwanzaa Culinarians

Recipes and Food Stories from the African Diaspora

Finding Ujima at College

Ujima (oo-JEE-mah), “Collective work and responsibility,” Helping others within the community

I’ve been lucky enough to live in a number of different places. When we came to the states, I was in New York, then we moved to Miami, and finally settled in Cleveland, Ohio where I would spend the rest of my childhood until college. Cleveland was very different than the other cities in many ways. For starters, it was an older, midwestern city surrounded by one of the Great Lakes that brought dreadful snowstorms during the winter. But, what stood out to me the most, as a child was the lack of diversity followed by the segregation.

There were three kinds of people in Cleveland: Black, White, and Middle Eastern. Everyone stuck to his or her own kind and that was it; outsiders were rarely welcome. What you looked like usually also meant what part of town you would live in. There were white schools and black schools or white movie theaters and black movie theaters. Of course, there were no signs mandating “whites only‚” it was just the way things were done there. People liked to stick to their own kind.

I remember feeling like such an outsider there. For one thing, my parents decided to rent a house in the “white” part of town making us the only brown skinned family for blocks. So, of course I went to an all white school. I didn’t feel like I belonged in that community. Instead, I felt like we had no community.

When it was time to go off to college, I decided to go back to Florida in hopes to eventually live there after college. During freshman orientation week, I was so taken away by all the different student organizations. There was the Haitian Student Union, the Chinese student Union, Cuban Student Association, Jewish Student Alliance, and many, many more. It seemed like there was a group for every ethnic, national, or cultural background. Unlike where I grew up, people did not segregate themselves.

The campus was one large community that collectively worked together to make for one student body. We were responsible for each other, for our own education, and for the education of our classmates. If someone felt homesick, lonely or needed something, they could turn to anyone for help.

Although, I graduated college almost 12 years ago, it was my experience at college that led me to have a better understanding of what it means to be part of a community. As an adult, I wanted to live somewhere diversity was welcomed. When I became a parent, it became even more important for me to ensure that my children would grow up feeling like part of a community rather than an outsider visiting. My children attend diverse schools, our church is diverse, and their friends are from different backgrounds. It really is a wonderful feeling, one that speaks the true meaning Ujima.

About Justice Jonesie
Justice Jonesie is a mom to three children, law professor, blogger at & co-founder of Blogalicious Weekend conference. Jonesie writes about work-life balance, fitness, and her journey through motherhood. When she is not working or chasing after her children, you may find Jonesie at the gym or enjoying a chic night out on the town with her hubby. Connect with her on Twitter @justicejonesie for bite size portions of humor.

About Bren Herrera

Bren has been cooking Latin and fusion cuisine for 18 years, and professionally for 8, having developed a passion for entertaining at an early age. Cooking for friends and family has always fascinated her and brings her much joy. In 2008 she launched her critically acclaimed food blog, Flanboyant Eats™. The blog’s popularity has landed her TV gigs appearing with Emeril Lagasse, a private stodge and demo with Chef of the Century, Joel Robuchon and continues to do TV having recently appeared on CNN Español, reaching over 30 million viewers. Bren is a full-time private chef, food and travel writer, having written food columns for LATINA Magazine, Dean & DeLuca, Cuisine Noir and has been published in various print publications covering culinary trends, restaurant reviews, global cuisine and excursions. She’s been featured in Black Enterprise, The Washington Post, Daily Candy, The AJC and other notable publications.

One comment on “Finding Ujima at College

  1. Pingback: Kwanzaa 2011 – Principle #3: Ujima | The Culinary Scoop

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on December 28, 2011 by in 2011, Personal Story, Ujima and tagged , , .

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Learn more about Kwanzaa

The word "Kwanzaa" comes from the phrase, "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first-fruits." Kwanzaa's extra "a" evolved as a result of a particular history of the Organization Us. It was clone as an expression of African values in order to inspire the creativity of our children. In the early days of Us, there were seven children who each wanted to represent a letter of Kwanzaa. Since kwanza (first) has only six letters, we added an extra "a" to make it seven, thus creating "Kwanzaa." To learn more about Kwanzaa, visit the Official Kwanzaa Website.

%d bloggers like this: