by Andrea Gardner
Her message was simple: “Rise up and rebuild.”
Valerie Shields, one of the founders of the National African American Youth Ministers Network delivered her African American Christian vision of leadership entitled “Kujenga,” telling students at the University of La Verne to re-educate themselves and to bring back the notion of “I am because we are.”
The event, sponsored by Campus Ministry and Minority Student Affairs, was held Feb. 9 in the Chapel. All were welcome to attend the workshop designed to explore the African American leadership style that is rooted in gospel tradition.
Shields advised students to remember the seven factors of life, which are Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Umani (faith).
“Nothing is more important than Umani,” said Shields, who once entered the religious order of the Sisters of the Holy Family, leaving everything to follow God and choosing Imani as her name.
Shields included in depth explanations of the seven factors, even teaching a song to better explain the meaning of the African terms.
Also included in the Kujenga was a description of the African American flag and the symbolism of the three colors, red (representing past, present, and future suffering for dignity and freedom), black (symbolizing the African race as a whole) and green (representing black hope in selfhood, self-determination and power).
“Don’t deny the fact that your ancestry is African. There is no such thing as a black land or a colored land. There is African. We have to claim that,” said Shields, who told students and faculty present to not lose sight of who they are.