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Ujima Fashion Show: True perseverance

Ujima Fashion Show: True perseverance

Annual Skidmore event to spotlight African, Caribbean history
Ujima Fashion Show: True perseverance
Model Jennifer Pichardo, left, a freshman at Skidmore, walks with her outfit at a Ujima dress rehearsal.
Photographer: Erica Miller

Clothing always tells a story.

As Skidmore students have proven year after year, sometimes fashion and dance tell a story that can be difficult to otherwise express. 

This year, students are delving into African and Caribbean history to express what true perseverance looks like through the Ujima Fashion Show. 

Ujima refers to the idea “to build and maintain community together, to treat others’ problems as your own and to solve them together." in Swahili. The Ujima club brings together students from every cultural background to start a dialogue about African and Caribbean cultures. 

Jonathan Ogunleye, a Skidmore Senior who is co-directing the show this year said that it has the potential to be one of the biggest in the show’s 26 years.

“In terms of what’s happening today to black people and to Muslims . . .  there’s always something that tries to prevent us from succeeding. But we will,” Ogunleye said.  

In 2016, he was studying abroad in Denmark when he first realized that he really wanted to dive into the show. Although he’d been involved since his sophomore year at Skidmore, studying abroad made him realize how important the show was to him and to other students on campus. 

Ogunleye contacted Kiana Doumbia, Zimkita Mpulmpula, and Isabel Rojas, fellow Skidmore students and asked if they could direct the show with him.

The team began planning over the phone and email everything the show would involve and the story the show would tell.

“We wanted to create a story that could be seen,” Ogunleye said. 

This year’s show is called “If this melanin could speak . . . This is our story.” 

In four parts, students will be showcasing how people of African descent and Caribbean descent have drawn out perseverance from within despite hardships.

“We’re looking at how we survived even before slavery and then how we survived through slavery,” Ogunleye said. 

“That represents spiritualism,” Ogunleye said. 

Other models have headwraps on. 

“Another way to persevere is to have a pop of identity,” Ogunleye said. 

 Then they find perseverance in dance, bringing the 80s and 90s hip-hop liberation movement to life. The final scene will portray what Ogunleye called Black Excellence.

“It’s who we are now,” Ogunleye said. 

Ogunleye and his other directors hope that the show makes people think about what’s going on in the African and Caribbean cultures today and reflect on all that has come to pass within those cultures. 

“It’s always one of those events that everyone on campus is talking about and everyone gets really excited for it. . . It’s never failed to let people down for the past 26 years!” Ogunleye said. 

In the hour and a half long show, Ogunleye hopes to see more than just Skidmore students there.

“It’s in a bigger space this year. . . we wanted it to be a bigger show,” Ogunleye said. 

Usually, about 250 people head into the Janet Kinghorn Bernhard Theater for the show. 

But this year it’ll be at the Intramural Gymnasium which has a much larger seating capacity.


Ujima Fashion Show

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday, March 25
WHERE: Skidmore College Intramural Gymnasium
COST: Free

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