A small crowd gathered at Flossmoor Park on Dec. 28, the rainy third night of Kwanzaa, to celebrate the Ujima principle. The kinara was lit by Flossmoor Hills Elementary School Principal Evita McNeil-Dobson who spoke on how Ujima is important in every aspect of the H-F community, especially within education.
Flossmoor Mayor Michelle Nelson attended the lighting and introduced Mcneil. She greeted the crowd with a warm “Habari Gani,” a traditional Swahili greeting used during Kwanzaa.
Ujima focuses on collective effort and responsibility. It emphasizes working together to build communities and solve problems within them together.
“As I reflect on this principle, I think about how the teachers and the parents and the community members really work together to support our students [in] their academic, social and emotional well being,” McNeil-Dobson said. “I think about how it’s that collaboration that really helps Flossmoor to be the great haven that it is for our children.”
Mcneil reflected on how she practices the Ujima principle almost daily as an educator.
“As an educator in the community, I think that I work with [Ujima] daily in ensuring that our kiddos of the community get the education they deserve,” Mcneil said.
This was McNeil-Dobson’s first time participating in the community’s kinara lighting. She was excited to have the opportunity to celebrate Kwanzaa with other community members and partake in the ceremony.
“I’m definitely excited to know that although this is my first time partaking in the ceremony, I’ve been practicing the principles of Kwanzaa as far as I can remember serving my community as an educator,” she said.
McNeil-Dobson has worked in the Flossmoor School District 161 for 13 years and is completing her first year as the principal of Flossmoor Hills Elementary School. She hopes that the Flossmoor community will keep working together for the betterment of the children.
“I just want to [encourage] everyone that’s here this evening to continue to mentor, continue to help and guide and train up our children in the way that they should go so that we can continue to boast a community of greatness,” she said.