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The Ujamaa 40+ Anniversary

Photograph of Ujamaa 40+ event reception, within Lagunita Court.
May 11 2017

"Uj saved me!"

In Autumn 2016, Ujamaa celebrated their 40+ Anniversary. The idea took root in 1970, following student activism, when a "concentration floor" of Black frosh and another floor of Black upperclassmen were created in two houses in Wilbur.  This concept later moved to Roble and finally landed in Olivia Magnolia House in 1974.  The house was renamed “Ujamaa" in 1976. "As a freshman in 1970, I think that I can speak for my dorm mates at Cedro (the first all-freshman ethnic theme dorm), that we had no idea that it was an experiment. We knew it was new for Stanford. We hoped it would be as fun and as reaffirming as it seemed. We did not appreciate that we were starting a legacy that continues to this day. This dorm changed our lives,” wrote Dr. Joy Simmons, ’74, Trustee Emerita.

Intergenerational gatherings are a staple in Black Culture.  Ujamaa Alumni from 1966-2015 interact with undergraduates seamlessly. As part of the 40+ Anniversary reunion, stories were shared, pictures shown, and tall tales told.  "Watching knowledge transfer selflessly with love,  gratitude and pride was magical,” observed Jan Barker-Alexander, Ujamaa Resident Fellow. 

Detail of St. Claire Drake piece presented at reunion event.

Ujamaa residents view their house as a place that fosters discomfort as a tool of learning.  They experience intellectual discovery as the norm, which makes Ujamaa a leader in Residential Education. This theme of intellectual engagement was signified by the unveiling of a painting of Professor St. Clair Drake, the first Chair of the Program in African & African-America Studies.  Justin Reed, '10, and former Ujamaa resident, was commissioned to do the painting. Alumni, especially those who knew Professor Drake, appreciated the recognition of his scholarship, mentorship, and friendship.     

Later, students led alumni on tours through the halls. One place that was emotional for all was standing in Crossroads and reading the  definition on the ceiling: "Crossroads:(n) an intersection of two or more roads; a point at which a crucial decision must be made that will have far-reaching consequences; where Ujamaa A and B wings meet; where intellectual curiosity and vitality intersect; where relationships are formed and secrets are shared; where fun, laughter, and happiness create long-lasting memories."