Umoja Circles: Processing Support for Black Community Members

Bashar Makhay
January 19, 2021

Students of color at the Columbia University School of Social Work's Action Lab launched a new program called Umoja Circles to support community members who identify with the Black and African diaspora. The program, a series of free virtual group meetings with a trained practitioner of color, provides space for the community to express their experiences related to this dual COVID-19 pandemic and heightened anti-Black racism. It was created in acknowledgement that COVID-19 and quarantine imposed significantly more harm in the form of trauma, pain, and injustice on the Black and Afro-Latinx communities. Organizers chose the Kiswahili word Umoja to name the program, as it means unity—unity in family, community, and shared African descent—which they believe is integral to healing in the Black community. 

The organizers recognize the pain and often unprocessed feelings and trauma that the community continues to experience, particularly in light of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, David McAtee, James Scurlock, and countless others. Further, they acknowledge that Black people as a whole have been deeply impacted by state-sanctioned violence perpetrated in the United States and around the world. 

While the program is facilitated by a trained practitioner, it is not intended to be taken in lieu of therapy, or as a replacement for therapy. For those interested in more formal or longer-term options email [email protected] for their listings and visit the Action Lab website for a number of mental health resources for the Black community. To join the next Umoja Circle, please fill out this form.