UJIMA — Collective Work with the Bay Area’s Black African Immigrant Population

By AnaStacia Nicol Wright

December 26th, 2021 kicked off my Kwanzaa celebrations this year. COVID and the Bar exam have hampered my usual celebrations. But, I was actually able to find fulfillment in my work of one of Kwanzaa’s main principles. Day 3 of Kwanzaa’s Nguzu Saba (7 Principles) is Ujima or Collective Work.

On Tuesday of this week I found myself eyeballs deep in this principle as I reviewed translations videos Worksafe contracted for through our CWOP grant. Our goal under this grant is to ensure vulnerable Bay Area communities have COVID-19 information, protective gear and vaccine access. As part of this goal, I found myself looking for ways to reach the African/Black immigrant community with our outreach efforts. However, we didn’t have any strong connections to the African immigrant community.

Eventually, with the help of Aron Berhane with Black Alliance for Immigrant Justice, I was able to identify some of the main languages spoken in the Bay Area by this community: French, Igbo, Tigrinya and Swahilli. From there Aron and I worked together to find community members to create video and document translations of our California Workers Outreach Project (CWOP) materials.

The objective was to make the workers’ rights information accessible not only to readers of these languages, but also those who speak it, but struggle with their reading. Worksafe was able to apply funding provided by the Sierra Health Foundation in our CWOP to pay folks not just to translate written documents, but create video content as well.

This is what I spend my Tuesday or Ujima doing. The “Black” community speaks thousands of different languages and hail from hundreds of different places. We share a lot, yes. But there is also much that separates us. Bridging this gap is paramount in building collective strength to make sure all of our voices are heard and our needs met. Not just in the workplace but everywhere.

So, Joyous Kwanzaa to me despite COVID-19, the bar exam and awful weather. Many thanks to Aron Berhane, Mary Mbugua, Sylvain Breka and Ifunanya Nwanonyiri for collaborating with us on this project. Special thanks to to Shared Value Media for their support, especially Ariel Marsh, Carly Lynch and Tibein Tedemet. And of course, thank you to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency and the Center at the Sierra Health Foundation for their support.

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