who we are
Umoja is a Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) program designed to support the holistic development of Black/African American learners. This unique program positions Black/African American history and shared experience as a central cornerstone for classroom learning.
We believe in the innate capacity of all Black/African American children to learn.
We believe it is the responsibility of the classroom facilitator to honor, nourish, and support the intellectual and personal development of Black/African American children.
We acknowledge the critical role of racism, bigotry, and cultural domination in shaping learning environments. When Black/African American children don’t learn, we must interrogate the schools, curriculum, and teaching practices that have produced such results.
We believe in the innate capacity of all Black/African American children to learn
why we exist
BUSD continues to struggle to reach equitable educational outcomes for Black/African American students. While we must acknowledge isolated moments of success, systemic achievement for Black/African American students is yet realized.
what we do
Umoja seeks to disrupt patterns of institutional racism by developing solutions that transform school systems, organizational culture, and practices to ensure the success of Black/African American students.
The Umoja program establishes a model learning environment that affords opportunities for Black/African American learners to be empowered, stimulated intellectually, and demonstrate their innate genius. In doing so, Umoja provides a counter-narrative that challenges deficit beliefs about the capabilities of Black/African American learners. In this regard, the program's dynamic impact includes value to the observer (school/external community) and the participant (learner/student).
Umoja borrows principles, strategies, and methods from esteemed researchers and scholars, particularly individuals who situate Black/African American culture, values, and worldview as the essential foundation for building educational frameworks for Black/African American learners.
Umoja was designed to provide a concrete response to the following essential questions:
What rituals, routines, and practices result in effective learning environments for Black/African American learners?
What policies, structures, systems, and supports are necessary to facilitate the healthy development and learning of Black/African American learners?
What skills, knowledge, and awareness do adults need to effectively reach and facilitate learning for Black/African American learners?
The Umoja program offers a framework for implementing strategies fundamental to the success of African American learners. Being fundamental, Umoja exists to provide a learning experience that is needed but often not afforded to Black/African American students within BUSD.
Kamar O'Guinn has dedicated his career to uplifting and empowering African American students. He is the devoted leader and architect of the African American Success Project/Umoja program.
Before joining BUSD, Mr. O'Guinn was an Assistant Principal of an Oakland public school. In addition to his administrative leadership, he has significant experience spearheading efforts of public schools and nonprofit organizations to design, implement, and coordinate supports that assist students in building intellectual, social, and emotional capital.
Kamar is a native of Oakland, California. He credits his community for helping him to understand the relationship between education and social mobility. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University East Bay, where he graduated summa cum laude.
Christopher Oakes is a dedicated educator with an unwavering commitment to helping young people fulfill their maximum potential. Throughout his career, he has successfully fostered inclusive educational environments for students and student-athletes. As a social justice advocate and change agent, Mr. Oakes is expressly dedicated to supporting African American students.
Before joining BUSD, Mr. Oakes played a vital role on the UC California Men’s basketball staff as the Academic Support Coordinator. Among his duties, he assisted in day-to-day operations and oversaw the Golden Bears’ academics, tutoring, and community service efforts.
Mr. Oakes, a native of Oakland, California, was a star athlete at Castlemont High School. He played collegiate basketball at San Jose State University, where he would earn his BA degree in African American Studies. Following his career at San Jose State, Oakes played professional basketball in Germany.
After retiring from basketball, Oakes earned his Master’s degree in Education (Social Justice/Equity) from UC Santa Cruz. He also possesses a California Single Subject Teaching Credential: Social Studies.