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Sunday, February 27, 2011

‘Pride and Purpose’ Brings Alums and Students Together

‘Pride and Purpose’ Brings Alums and Students Together:
Annual UMOJA Dinner honors black Americans
(Posted to 2/26)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Black, brown, tan. They were all represented here and gathered for a common cause – to celebrate their history and honor those that helped create it.

Held early Saturday evening in the Oak Room of the Barone Center on Fairfield University’s North Benson Road campus, the third annual “Pride and Purpose” Dinner was the culmination of school activities marking Black History Month. Event highlights included a buffet-style dinner; dance, poetry and song performances; and a tribute to Civil Rights activist Dorothy Height. Organized by UMOJA, the university’s black and Caribbean student association, the dinner was attended by over 50 people including alumni, faculty and current students.

Maria Sanchez, a sophomore and president of UMOJA, led the event, with support from fellow coordinators Desiree Gordon, Gaelle Isazu and Isata Kargbo. Sanchez said she was proud of the group and its work and stressed its importance on campus. “It’s great for us to have a forum to meet, socialize, discuss issues and create events that highlight our cultures.”

Added fellow sophomore Jazmin Fermin, who read the poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou and performed a praise dance, “I like that UMOJA, even though its mostly African American focused, accommodates people of Caribbean cultures, too. We have common dances, like Pallo, and foods like casave. And we get to meet people from other places.”

Freshman Astrid Quinones, who sang “When You Believe” by Mariah Carey, said, “For this university to recognize minorities is a big step given its history. We’re drawing from the talent of our group to expand upon our cultural background and be proud of who we are as people.”

To help focus attention on the program, quotations were set at each place setting featuring African proverbs or notable sayings from both historic and contemporary black Americans. These ran the gamut from Booker T. Washington to actor Bill Cosby.

Alumnus Janice Jones, class of 1980, was glad to attend. “It’s important to be here to offer continuity and a sense of history and community to current students.”

Daphne Robinson, who earned her graduate degree at the university in 2006, added, “I don’t really read or meditate about black history. This is a great opportunity to get back in touch and build a network of people of color.”

Will Johnson, Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Office of Student Diversity Programs, said the evening was particularly important. “I think we lost touch with black history in past years. I was glad that we were able to put so many great events together this month to mark black history.

Class of ’82 alumnus Carolyn Roman was just glad to be back on campus. “Fairfield has a special place in my heart. This is the beginning of much more to come.”