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Past, present and future.

These are all important issues that will be addressed in this year’s annual UMOJA Week, going on now.

Each year, UMOJA — the umbrella organization for black student groups at Penn — organizes a week of programming around different aspects of black heritage. They are hosting their 13th annual UMOJA Week this year with the theme of “Reaching Back, Moving Forward.”

Today, UMOJA Week will host a discussion about queer figures in the Civil Rights Movements in collaboration with the Lambda Alliance — the umbrella organization for LGBT students at Penn — to discuss how civil rights and issues of identity have coincided throughout history.

College sophomore and Co-Chair of UMOJA Meron Zeru, said that the purpose of this week is to talk about historical events for the black community and their impact on the future.

“Every year we do a good job, but what’s different about this week is that we’re really delving into our history,” Zeru said.

This year’s programming is filled with speakers and events that will discuss African-American history in more detail than before, connecting it with how that history has and will impact the lives of the students at Penn.

“We are providing this week, where we actually discuss our history of what has happened and what that means for where we are now,” Zeru said.

UMOJA Week also brings together all of the constituent groups within the black community.

“The goal is to bring together constituents and have conversations that have us looking forward together as a community instead of creating a divisive nature within ourselves,” said Abrina Hyatt, a College sophomore and co-chair of UMOJA.

Hyatt also said that they wanted to raise awareness about the issues surrounding the black community.

In the upcoming days, participants of UMOJA Week will also have the opportunity to learn about activism through various parts of black culture. For example, there will be a discussion about how hip-hop has acted as a proponent for social change throughout history on Wednesday.

The Penn chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will be co-sponsoring an event this Friday hosting Issa Rae, the creator of an award-winning web series called “The Mis-adventures of Awkward Black Girl.”

The NAACP is also collaborating with Penn Israel Public Affairs Committee on Wednesday for a trip to the National Museum of American Jewish History.

“In previous years, we have done a dinner and [speaker events],” said Kyle Webster, a College sophomore and president of the Penn chapter of the NAACP. “This year we’re spreading events throughout the course of the week and allowing different groups to branch out and represent themselves to the broader Penn community.”

The week will culminate on Saturday night with a surprise guest speaker who will address issues of black representation in media.

“Black history is generally the same story told every single time,” said Hyatt. “However, there was so much more that happened.”

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