By Paul Tecuanhuey
The president of UMOJA, a Boston University student organization that takes its name from a Swahili word meaning “freedom”, is working to make his organization a forum for all minorities here.
Jeff Smith, a senior in the School of Public Communication, said, “The city of Boston presents a racial type of situation while Boston University itself is subdued.”
“But there is a feeling of unawareness. It should be brought to common knowledge that minorities have different ideas and problems. It is a matter of people versus people.” he said.
According to Smith, UMOJA was founded in 1968 during the civil rights movement when BU students staged a sit-in at the University Administration Building.
Smith said he has tried to establish a separate orientation program in SPC for minority students, but added that his plan was met with some faculty opposition.
Smith would like to see a minority orientation in SPC because “people identify with something of their own.”
When asked if there was any friction between UMOJA and the Student Union, he said although there have been a few private disagreements in the past, there are no serious points of contention.
“I object when events happen on campus paid for by the Student Union that have no bearing towards minority students,” Smith said.
“Because it involves our money, it should be something equal or beneficial to all students.”
When asked to comment about UMOJA’s slogan, ‘the struggle for equality goes on,’ he said, “It came about because while black students realized that the 1960’s were a time of struggle, the spirit died down in the 1970’s.”
UMOJA has a membership of 208 students and a first semester budget of $4,700, Smith said. “Today we have been accepted as an entity on campus even though the number of black students has not increased. However, we are growing rapidly,” he said.
UMOJA is planning to sponsor two jazz festivals. The first will be held during Oktoberfest with the featured artists being Lonnie Liston Smith and the Cosmic Echoes.
The second jazz festival will be held sometime in February with the tentative artist being Bobbie Humphrey.
UMOJA is also planning a Black History month along with Student Union. A series of lectures will be presented with one of the tentative speakers being Julian Bond, a State Senator from Georgia who is active in civil rights. In addition, UMOJA sponsors a candle light service each year in memory of one of the university’s most famous alumni, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is also the celebration of Black Christmas, called “kwanza”.
“It is the way Christmas is celebrated in Africa,” Smith said.
“I feel a black student union is necessary for all students,” he continued, “in order to understand black feelings and emotions. There is a need to bring school spirit back to BU. As a minority, I feel I can do it with creativity and imagination.”