Black and Brown Men Pursue Excellence: UBORA Men

Posted on 1/26/21 3:47 PM

By Elizabeth Laughlin

UBORA Men executive board members, from left, Samaj Schell (freshman, Communications Media/Media Production), secretary; Malik Turner (freshman, Exploratory Health and Human Services), vice president; and Davis Kazako (junior, Music Education), president

IUP's more than 200 clubs and organizations help students make connections, build friendships, and learn to lead. Each Wednesday, one student group will be profiled in this new series, Find Your People. First up is UBORA Men, a new organization that supports male students of color in the pursuit of excellence.

More about UBORA Men

Founded: Fall 2020

Meetings: Every other Wednesday in Folger Hall and via Zoom

Join: For more information or to join, contact Davis Kazako, president, nbzy@iup.edu, or Donovan Daniel, advisor, ddaniel@iup.edu. On Crimson Connect, see UBORA Men of IUP.

To support, inspire, and challenge male students of color—these are the objectives of IUP's UBORA Men, a student organization formed last fall. Its name builds off the concept of “ubora,” which, in Swahili, means excellence, quality, and superiority.

“We're helping Black and Brown men to recognize their inherent worth and to realize their full potential,” the group's advisor, Donovan Daniel, said. An IUP graduate with both a bachelor's and a master's degree, Daniel is assistant director of Admissions for Multicultural Recruitment.

UBORA Men's executive board consists of Davis Kazako (junior), president; Malik Turner (freshman), vice president; and Samaj Schell (freshman), secretary. The group meets every other week. In the fall, some meetings were held via Zoom, and some were in person, with members social distancing and wearing masks, in Folger Hall.

The student group focuses on three UBORA Men Initiatives: UMI Serves, UMI Wellness, and UMI Speaks.

The first encourages members to complete five hours of community service per semester. That could include anything from cleaning up within the community to helping out at a local church. This spring, the group plans to focus more on its service initiative, Daniel said.

For UMI Wellness, self-care is essential. Self-care can look different to everyone, Kazako said, but some ideas include going to the Counseling Center or writing in a journal.

“While we're in this pursuit of excellence, it's OK to take time for yourself,” Kazako said.

This spring, UBORA Men plans to hand out free journals to students on campus, he said.

UMI Speaks is a speaker series that the group hosted throughout the fall and plans to continue in the spring. Speakers have included IUP alumni of color and representatives of historically Black colleges and universities. This spring, UBORA Men plans to hold three speaker events—hopefully in person.

“In the fall, we had a great discussion during our speaker series about what comes to mind when someone says, ‘Be a man,'” Daniel said. “Another question we focused on was, ‘How do you overcome failure?'”

Kazako emphasized the importance of having a safe space for young Black and Brown men to express their thoughts and feelings.

“Validating emotions is important to us,” Kazako said. “We really stress that you get your emotions out and say what needs to be said.”

Above all, UBORA Men seeks to create an atmosphere in which Black and Brown men can have meaningful dialogue. Members spend the first 10 minutes of each meeting in casual conversation.

“We make sure that every man who comes into our room is heard,” Kazako said. “The first 10 minutes just feel like guys talking at the barber shop.”

In the fall, UBORA Men also held a Sunday dinner, during which members watched football and ate together. They plan to hold two more in the spring.

When discussing the group's purpose and activities, both Daniel and Kazako mentioned the pursuit of excellence.

“The idea is that you are already excellent the way you are,” Daniel said. “But now you can capitalize on building and achieving excellence.”

Next week: Coalition for Christian Outreach