Several basic themes emerge in Umoja’s trainings and classes, creating similar formats and processes, despite differences in topics and audience.

As the topics we discuss can make people, because of their past experiences, feel vulnerable, defensive, threatened, or uncomfortable, we establish a safe and respectful environment.

Discussion and activities develop self-understanding and encourage critical assessment of the societal and familial influences that shaped us into who we are today. They also aim to create appreciation for and acceptance of the unique experience of others. “It’s hard to hate someone whose story you know.”

All of us have spent a lifetime forming our current beliefs, interaction styles, and biases. Replacing those with ones that nourish healthy, meaningful, and fulfilling partnerships at home and at work takes another lifetime of intention and effort. Along that path, we face mistakes and setbacks, but also breakthroughs and triumphs. There is no arrival time.

While in our classes we explore the influences that shape our perspectives, we stress that ultimately each individual remains responsible for his or her actions. We encourage participants to focus on understanding what they need to change in themselves, rather than wasting energy blaming, judging, or seeking to change others.

Discomfort often fuels personal change and growth. When we step outside our comfort zone and challenge ourselves to try, to learn, and to listen to something new, we uncover opportunities and discover worlds of understanding. Our facilitators consciously and respectfully encourage discomfort by assisting participants with taking appropriate risks.

We recognize the important role power plays in human interactions. We believe that becoming an ally to those with less power prevents violence and builds the conditions for successful communities, teamwork, collaboration, and relationships.

Our hope for participants: that at a class’ end they no longer can look at the issue discussed in exactly the same way as they did upon arrival. Change can be small, gradual movement, or a long and sometimes painful process, and we ask participants to concentrate on their next step, rather than on remorse and self-reproach.

Personal reflection can be overwhelming. Despite and because of the seriousness of the topics discussed, we enjoy the natural humor and laughter that arises in our classes.