Sonoma State University offers a variety of clubs and organizations to belong to on campus, and this week an inclusive club on campus had its first meeting of the fall semester. Sea wolves were encouraged to visit the Hub on September 20 to attend the gathering of Umoja queens.
The Umoja Queens group promotes itself as a safe space for Black identified women to feel comfortable and express themselves. The origin of the group goes back to the club’s founder, Cookie Garrett, who started the group in 2018. Umoja happens to be one of the principles of Kwanzaa that represents unity. The Umoja Queens have cultivated an environment that reflects this “unity” by fostering strong relationships among all standing members of the group.
The members of the Umoja Queen, who had been part of the group the longest, began with a short self-introduction. New members/guests walked around the room, introduced themselves and told everyone a little bit about who they are and what they studied. Once the performance was over, everyone engaged in a typical friendly exchange.
Students and faculty members alike talked about their favorite Netflix shows, what they had been up to for the week, and what upcoming school-sponsored events they wanted to attend. The Umoja Queens gathering ended with a discussion on time management and great resources on campus that prepare students for successful college year-round.
The Umoja Queens have created a community where students can relax and have fun, but also discuss serious issues from the perspective of black women in Sonoma County. According to the United States Census Bureau, Sonoma County’s African American population accounts for about 2% of the total population, making it one of the less diversely populated counties in California.
Jennifer Eden, one of the senior members of Umoja Queens, said, “As a black person at Sonoma State, whether you’re a student, a faculty member, or a staff member like me, we’re a tiny community.” Eden then said that it was in a community where black people make up a small percentage of the population, being a black woman can be isolating, so she wants to spread the word of a place where people from the same ethnic background can come together and not feel so alone .
Eden also addressed the fact that some people in Sonoma County don’t understand what it’s like to belong to a minority. She ended her informative exchange by saying, “It’s nice to see people like us.”
The Umoja Queens want to create a sanctuary not only for Sonoma State Students, but for all black women in Sonoma County. They hope to continually increase the membership of their organization. Although their club states that they are a black women’s group, the weekly meetings are open to all sea wolves on campus. Umoja Queens meets every Tuesday from 12-1pm at the Hub on the SSU campus, and for those unavailable to perform physically, attendees are always welcome to join via Zoom.