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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.

affirmation

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 that racism, bigotry, and cultural domination play 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. Although isolated moments of success have been celebrated, systemic achievement is still unmet.

what we do

Umoja seeks to disrupt patterns of institutional racism by developing solutions that transform school systems, organizational culture and practices to ensure 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 to demonstrate their innate genius. This serves as a counter-narrative that challenges deficit beliefs about the capabilities of Black/African American learners. In this regard the dynamic impact of the program provides value both to the observer (school/external community), and the participant (learner/student).

Umoja's methodology combines culture, conditions and capacities.

paradigm

Umoja borrows principles, strategies and methods offered by esteemed researchers and scholars; particularly individuals who situate Blackness as an essential foundation for which to build educational frameworks for Black/African American learners.

Umoja was designed to provide a concrete response to the following essential questions:

Culture

What are the rituals, routines, and practices that result in effective learning environments for Black/African American learners?

Conditions

What are the policies, structures, systems, and supports necessary to facilitate the healthy development and learning of Black/African American learners?

Capacities

What are the skills, knowledge and awareness that adults need in order 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 African American students within BUSD.

Umoja exists to provide a learning experience that is needed but often not afforded to Black/ African American students within BUSD

Pattern

staff

kamar o'guinn

umoja founder

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. His work efforts are driven by the desire to end predictive outcomes for African American students.

Prior to 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 intentional 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’s of Arts degree from California State University East Bay, where he graduated summa cum laude.

Portrait of Kamar O'Guinn

christopher oakes

umoja instructor

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 both students and student-athletes. As a social justice advocate and agent of change, he is expressly dedicated to supporting African American students.

Prior to 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 and tutoring, as well as their 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.

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