ubora

Samaj Schell (left) is the secretary of UBORA, Theodore M. Turner (middle) is the vice president and Davis Kazako is the president.

A new organization has arrived on campus to empower and support Black and Brown male students at IUP.

UBORA Men of IUP found a new home in June 2020, when Dr. Malaika Turner (Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs) sent the first draft of UBORA to Dr. Tom Segar (Vice President for Student Affairs) and Theo Turner, the director of the Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement (MCSLE).

“Initially, it was inspired by an organization at Delaware State University called Faithful Black Men Association,” Malaika Turner said. “After a few conversations with folks in the student affairs division [at IUP], it seemed like the perfect time to create something that would enhance the experience of the Black and Brown male students at IUP.”

Malaika Turner approached Donovan Daniel to be the adviser for UBORA last August.

“The idea was envisioned summer of 2020,” Daniel said. “I was approached August 2020 to serve as campus adviser along with Mr. Shawn Jones. We were recognized by the university as of October 2020, and, in about two months, we went from an idea to fully recognized by IUP.”

Daniel’s role is to structure and guide the organization on university policies when planning events and using social media. He also serves as a mentor for the students in the club.

“My job is two-fold,” Daniel said. “A campus adviser is meant to make sure an organization is adhering to all university policies as it pertains to how it deals with members, how to plan programs, messaging used on social media and in communications. Specifically, for this group, we are there to help teach and guide the mentor these young Black and Brown leaders.”

Another goal of UBORA is to help students feel safe, valued, and supported.

“There have been so many situations in the last few years where we’ve had racial incidents that have been disturbing,” Daniel said. “We’ve received outcry from the Black and Brown community that they don’t always feel safe, so UBORA attempts to help students feel safe, valued and supported.”

A key element of the organization is its Christian ties.

“We understand not everyone comes from a religious background, but our founders all happen to be Christian,” Daniel said. “Some of the understanding is fueled by that, in that we believe students – people in general – have value endued upon them by the Creator. Even if you don’t believe in that, we believe you still have it, you don’t have to do anything for it, you have value.

“That’s something Black and Brown students aren’t always aware of, and society doesn’t enforce that, so we’re going to. We’re going to help them realize they already have potential for that, already are that, based on the fact they were created.”

For the three board members, UBORA has changed their lives in the course of a few months.

“I joined for three reasons,” said Vice President Theodore M. Turner (freshman, multicultural student leadership and engagement), who is the son of Dr. Malaika Turner and Theo Turner.

“The first is that my mom founded it. Secondly, I wanted to see Black and Brown men really become a staple in the IUP community. The third is because of brotherhood, being around other people like me. There’s good fellowship.”

President Davis Kazako (junior, music) has similar reasons.

“I got asked by these two (Theodore M. Turner and Schell), and they were like, ‘This is the organization; we want to get you in on it,’” Kazako said. “I had heard whispers about it, but it’s nice to be a part of it. There was a need for something outside of just a fraternity; there needed to be other options.

“There is never a chance to run out of opportunities for Black and Brown men to be great.”

Samaj Schell (freshman, communications media) is also related to the founder of UBORA.

“Theodore’s mom, my aunt, told me about it, and I thought, ‘That doesn’t sound too bad,’” Schell said. “There aren’t many organizations on campus specifically for Black and Brown men. We can make this small thing turn into something big.”

In Swahili, the word “UBORA” means different things; however, the organization focuses on two of those: excellence and quality.

“It is a reminder to Black and Brown male students that they have inherent worth and incredible potential,” Daniel said. “We use that in the framework of our mission. We’re very deliberate with all those words.”

For all the members, UBORA means something personal and different.

“It represents my full potential to be a mentor,” Daniel said. “I’ve been blessed in my time at IUP. I attended back in 2005–09 and again in 2013–14. I get to realize my full potential to be a mentor and give back, due to all the mentors given to me.

“It is an opportunity for me to realize my full potential as a mentor on IUP’s campus. I’ve been blessed to have mentors like Roger Briscoe, Jenkins, Destefano; the list goes on of people that have poured into me, and now I get to do that for the next generation of students, almost 20 years after I was a freshman myself.”

For Theodore M. Turner, it is a way for Black and Brown men to become a staple in the IUP community.

“It gives Black and Brown men an opportunity to come together and have our own group to really talk and eaxpress how we feel about whatever it is we’re feeling at the time,” he said.

It has also made him listen more.

“It has kind of made me more so humble myself and listen more than just speak from what I feel. Sometimes, I like to talk more than listen to what others have to say, so it’s kind of, in that way, made me have to understand all these other people.

“There’s a ton of other people with different stories that can be inspiring, interesting and different.”

For some, the word UBORA means more than excellence and quality.

“The word means excellence, and, for me, it is giving us another reason to show these men how they can be excellent and open up and speak on certain things they go through in their day-to-day lives,” Schell said. “It’s not just excellence, but more hope and help with whatever that is that combines us together.”

For the founder, it means everything to see the organization grow.

“UBORA means so many things to me personally,” Malaika Turner said. “I’ll say this – I’ve been here at IUP for 30 years, first as a student and now as an administrator. I’m pleased that IUP is investing in the experience of Black and Brown men.

“We need to see these young men thrive and be supported. Attending a predominantly white institution can be a difficult transition. I want to see Black and Brown men arrive at IUP and hit the ground running because there’s a UBORA here waiting for them.”

UBORA also plans events. There is going to be a Sunday dinner this week.

“We’ll hold it once or twice a month to provide students the opportunity to gather, talk and break bread,” Daniel said. “We’re also planning a speaker series. The first speaker ... was Mr. Paul Beckles.”

Beckles is a 2009 IUP alumnus with a degree in sports management who currently works for Nike.

“He spoke about how important it is to build networks at IUP,” Daniel said. “Some advice he gave was to not start until internships and jobs and all that.”

UBORA is also planning to bring more Black and Brown male speakers who will be a mixture of IUP alumni and alumni of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The club meets biweekly, 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays via Zoom. While UBORA is aimed toward Black and Brown male students, everyone is invited and welcome to come.

“UBORA invites faculty and staff who work with Black and Brown men at IUP to share this organization with their students,” Malaika Turner said. “So many of our Black and Brown men could use this kind of connection.”

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