When my husband and I were preparing to adopt, we had a wonderful social worker that helped us understand that adopting a child from a different culture wasn’t about what we would accept; it was about what we could offer. We learned that loving our child meant more than providing a happy home, it meant that we had to help them develop a sense of pride in their birth culture. So began our journey to Umoja.

Starting in 2005, I, along with Dr. Bola Delano-Oriaran began to explore what we could offer as a heritage camp for families that looked like mine. My husband and I have two beautiful African American children. We are white. We knew that Umoja (Swahili for Unity) has to help the entire family, not just the children. So Dr. Delano and I planned programming for the entire family. Parents and children have age appropriate sessions that cover everything from how to deal with racism to celebrating the music of Africa. From the start our goal has been to give families the tools needed to raise happy, healthy black children who feel good about their blackness.

2016 was our first year in St Paul, Minnesota, where we had 22 families, 50 adults, 30 kids and 30 volunteers who made it a great weekend.

One of the biggest blessings has been the friendships that have blossomed between children and families of Umoja. We have many families that have returned annually. I delight in the children’s anticipation as they wait for their Umoja friends from year’s past to arrive. Please consider joining us this year and having create some special moments for you and your children.

Julie Ryno, Umoja co-founder