Umoja Turns 50

BU’s black student union promotes unity

Photos by Jackie Ricciardi

On a Tuesday night in February, 15 to 20 students were sitting in a circle in a College of Arts & Sciences classroom. They were there for a panel discussion titled What I Wish I Knew as a Freshman, hosted by Umoja, Boston University’s black student union.

The student panelists, Jordan Carter (CFA’17), Kirby Page (CAS’18), Daniel Wiley (ENG’17), and Sherifat Bakare (CAS’16, SPH’18), were leading a conversation about the culture shock that black students often experience when they arrive at BU as freshmen. The discussion was part of the club’s Unity Week, a series of events commemorating Umoja’s 50th anniversary.

The panelists stressed the importance of building rapport with professors inside and outside of class, meeting new people, and getting involved in activities you’re passionate about. Bakare shared her struggle to fit in. “I just didn’t feel comfortable,” she recalled of her first months at BU. “I hadn’t found my group of people.” But when she began working at the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground, she found a home base and was able “to really put my feet down on the ground here.”

Many of the students at the discussion said that Umoja itself had been instrumental in helping them find community at BU. The organization was founded in 1967, at a time when African Americans all over the country were gaining traction and mobilizing around civil rights. In its early years, members fought against racial injustice on campus and in the larger community. They protested the University’s lack of African American faculty in 1969 and created a legal defense fund the next year in support of activist Angela Davis, prosecuted for conspiracy involving the armed takeover of a Marin County, Calif., courtroom that left four people dead, and later acquitted in a federal trial.

Today, the club’s mission is to support and represent black students both within and outside the University, as well as to educate the greater BU community about the black experience and promote unity through its forums and other events during the year.

“Umoja’s goal is to strive to create a healthy environment for black students and all students interested in black culture,” says club president Jonea Weekley (Questrom’17). “We do this through a variety of events, such as general meetings, where we discuss current topics, or larger, more formal events that are meant to celebrate the community.”

The club, with 30 or so active members currently (its events often draw crowds of 100 or more), meets twice a month, and general membership is open to all BU students. Discussions focus on issues from pop culture (music, fashion, movies) to education and politics. Recent topics have included the dynamics of interracial relationships and the relevance and role black music artists play in society.

In addition to hosting its own events, Umoja often partners with other student groups, like Alianza Latina and the Islamic Society of BU. The three groups collaborated last November to sponsor a spoken word event centered on intersectionality. One of the club’s biggest events this year was a September panel discussion cohosted with BU Students for Justice in Palestine about the connections between the Black Lives Matter movement and the Palestinian Liberation Movement. Featuring writer and civil rights activist Shaun King, the program drew more than 300 people.

Umoja is the Swahili word for “unity,” so it seemed appropriate to kick off the celebration of the club’s 50th anniversary with a week of events in February, dubbed Unity Week, focused on fostering unity among students of color at BU.

Kenneth Elmore, associate provost and dean of students, was among those at Algonquin Club reception hosted by Umoja February 24.

Jonea Weekley (Questrom’17), president of Umoja, looks on as Kenneth Elmore (SED’87) (second from right), associate provost and dean of students, speaks at the Algonquin Club reception hosted by Umoja February 24.

“As the black student union on campus, it was important to us that we showcased not only black history around our country,” Weekley says, “but also black history happening every day on our campus.”

Among the events were a screening of the documentary The New Black and a monthlong social media campaign, #blackmenmonday and #blackwomenwednesday, highlighting the accomplishments of black men and women. Each post was accompanied by a brief biography and photo.

The anniversary observance was capped off with a Staff, Students, and Faculty of Color Reception at the Algonquin Club on February 24. Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), associate provost and dean of students, delivered a toast that underscored the importance of Umoja’s mission.

“Right now more than ever, we have to pull together,” Elmore said. “I want to remind you about our ancestors: any time I think it gets hard, not only am I remembering that Umoja is 50 years old, but I’m remembering my ancestors who…came through far worse. They kept their backs straight, they kept their heads up.”

For many club members, this year’s anniversary has been a time for taking stock. “At the end of the day, I’ve had the opportunity to build onto a 50-year-long legacy, and while it may have been challenging at times, it was truly a privilege to be a part of this dynamic community,” says Weekley. “I hope to see Umoja continue to expand and provide programming that is meant to bring people together to smile, debate, discuss, and celebrate each other.”

This Saturday, April 8, Umoja is hosting its third annual Unity Awards to honor the accomplishments of members of the BU community. The event, free and open to all students, includes refreshments and performances by the Trap Music Orchestra, spoken word artist Laurent Che (COM’18), the a cappella group BU Allegrettos, and the African Student Organization dance troupe Afrithms.

Umoja’s Unity Awards ceremony is Saturday, April 8, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the Photonics Center Colloquium Room, 8 Saint Mary’s St. The event is free and open to all students; the dress code is formal. Purchasing a $2 raffle ticket enters attendees in a raffle to win a $75 Visa gift card. Find this year’s Unity Awards nominees and vote for your choice here.

Find more information about Umoja on its Facebook page or email

Kyler Sumter can be reached at

This was originally published here.


Halloween Goings-on, Off Campus and On

A guide to must-see local events, from parties to movies to haunted houses

A record number of Americans—171 million—are expected to celebrate Halloween this year. And they’ll spend $8.4 billion on costumes, candy, and decorations, another record, according to the National Retail Federation. The top costumes for adults this year? Batman characters, witches, animals, superheroes, and vampires. Top costumes for kids: action/superhero, princess, animal, Batman characters, and Star Wars characters.

Through Monday, the city will be celebrating Halloween with special movie festivals, ghost tours, holiday-themed comedy events, and more. But regardless of the festivities you’re planning, remember to use caution and common sense. In an email to all undergrads sent on Thursday, Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), associate provost and dean of students, and Scott Paré, BUPD acting police chief, urged students to “make plans to get home in a safe manner, stay away from people acting in a way that may harm you, be alert for scammers, thieves, and people who may try to victimize you.” They also urged students not to carry toy guns or toy weapons as part of their costume and to refrain from overindulging in drinking alcoholic beverages.

We’ve put together a list of some of the most imaginative and creative events we could find—on campus and off—to ensure you have a fun holiday. After all, as Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle once said, “Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.”

Friday, October 28

RISE of the Jack O’Lanterns

The Boston Seaport and World Trade Center will be lit this weekend by 5,000 illuminated jack-o’-lanterns, courtesy of the RISE. For the first time, the nonprofit’s Halloween extravaganza is coming to Boston. Artists spend 10 to 15 hours illustrating and carving 100-pound pumpkins into life-sized dinosaurs, characters from your favorite movies, and much more. Four carving stations allow you to watch as they transform pumpkins (real and artificial) into works of art. The jack-o’-lanterns will be arranged along a scenic walking path and paired with Halloween music for your viewing pleasure.

RISE of the Jack O’Lanterns is on view Thursday, October 27, through Sunday, October 30, from 10 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. at the Boston Seaport and World Trade Center, One Seaport Lane. Buy tickets at $16.90, first come, first served, supplies limited, here. Find directions here.

Jack o’Lanterns

Salem Haunted Happenings

No Halloween is complete without a visit to Salem, the city best known for the 17th-century witch trials that led to the death of 20 people. Each October, an estimated 250,000 visitors descend on the city for its annual holiday celebration, Salem Haunted Happenings. There’s an old-fashioned carnival with rides, a wax museum featuring 60 life-size characters created by Hollywood professionals, a reenactment of a 1692 witch trial, a live magic show, and enough spooky walking tours to put the “haunted” in your Halloween.

Find a complete guide to this year’s Salem Haunted Happenings, October 1 to 31, here. The North Shore city of Salem is about 45 minutes from Boston. Find driving directions here and information about commuter rail service to Salem here.

12th Annual Pumpkin Drop

It’s time for one of BU’s biggest, most popular Halloween traditions: the annual pumpkin wrecking ceremony. Sponsored by the physics department, the event is held in front of the Metcalf Science Center. Not only will you get to watch students launch pumpkins filled with various substances off the building’s roof, you’ll also get to participate in science demos and a costume contest, as well as enjoy free treats. Come early to guess the weight of the largest pumpkin.

The Annual Pumpkin Drop begins at 12:30 p.m. in front of the Metcalf Science Center, 590 Commonwealth Ave. Arrive between 11:45 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. to enter the costume contest (prizes will be awarded) and guess the weight of the largest pumpkin. Free and open to BU students.

Friday Night Club—Halloween!

Here’s a chance to have fun and give back at the same time. BU Student Volunteers for Special Needs is hosting its second annual Halloween-themed Friday Night Club for those with special needs, featuring games, spooky music, and festive crafts. So if you enjoy meeting new people and working with folks with special needs in a fun, welcoming environment, head over to the GSU.

Friday Night Club—Halloween! is from 7 to 9 p.m. in the GSU Academy Room, 775 Commonwealth Ave. Free to BU students.

BU Pub Wicked Halloween Party

This event, open to all members of the BU community 21+, offers special holiday concoctions, like Dracula’s Libation (vodka, razzmatazz, lime juice, and cranberry juice) and Smashed Pumpkin (pumpkin cider and Guinness). Arrive before 9:30 p.m. to enter the costume contest. The first prize is $75 in convenience points and the second prize is $25 in convenience points. Winners will be announced at 10 p.m.

The BU Pub Wicked Halloween Party is from 7 p.m. to midnight at the BU Pub, 225 Bay State Rd. The event is 21+ only.

Halloween on the Harbor Party Crawl

Here’s a chance to take in a host of holiday-themed parties along Boston Harbor. It’s the Seaport Hotel’s seventh Annual Halloween on the Harbor Party Crawl. A $10 ticket (proceeds benefit the nonprofit Friends of the Fort Point Channel) gets you a ride on a Boston Duck shuttle to Halloween parties at spots like the Barking Crab, Temazcal Tequila Cantina, Atlantic Beer Garden, and Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar & Grill. The event is 21+ so don’t forget to bring your ID or you’ll miss out on the fun.

Gorefest poster

Halloween on the Harbor runs from 7 to 10 p.m. along the South Boston Waterfront. Plan to arrive at the Seaport Hotel TAMO Bistro & Bar, One Seaport Lane, any time after 7 p.m. to check in and catch a Duck shuttle. Purchase tickets, $10, here. Find directions here.

ImprovBoston’s GoreFest XIV: The Campaign

If there’s ever been a presidential campaign ripe for satire, this year’s is it. Fortunately, ImprovBoston, one of the city’s premier comedy clubs, is back with its annual Halloween musical satire, titled GoreFest XIV: The Campaign. It will poke plenty of fun at the 2016 election and leave you covered in gore. Ponchos are recommended as audience members may be splattered in fake blood, guts, and gore.

ImprovBoston’s GoreFest XIV: The Campaign runs from Thursday, October 27, to Sunday, November 6, at ImprovBoston’s Studio Theater, 40 Prospect St., Central Square, Cambridge. Find admission prices and a complete list of show dates and times here. Purchase tickets here.

Brownstone RHA Halloween Night

Looking for Halloween fun, but don’t feel like leaving campus? Join the Brownstone Hall Council for a night of Halloween must-haves: apple cider, donuts, and scary movies.

Halloween Night will be held in the Towers Residence Hall Franklin Lounge, 140 Bay State Rd., from 8 to 10:30 p.m. and is free to BU students.

Saturday, October 29

Dia de los Muertos Celebration at Taza Chocolate

Local chocolatier Taza Chocolate is hosting its sixth annual Dia de los Muertos(Day of the Dead) celebration. Wear your most festive or ghoulish costume and scoop up free samples of the company’s delicious hot chocolate and other treats. Tacos can be purchased from the Happy TacoTaco Party, and Sabrosa Taqueria BostonFancypants Baking Company will sell baked sweets as well. Face painters at the family-friendly event will transform you into a traditional Day of the Dead skull, and musical performances from DJs Dudley and Tris, El Sistema Somerville, and La Piñata will get you moving.

Taza Chocolate’s Dia de los Muertos celebration is from noon to 5 p.m. at the Taza Chocolate Factory, 561 Windsor St., Somerville; free and open to the public. Rain date is Sunday, October 30, noon to 5 p.m. Take a Red Line train outbound to Central and walk 20 minutes.

Dia de los Muertos Poster of skulls

575 RHA Pumpkin Party

The 575 Commonwealth Avenue Hall Council is hosting a free pumpkin party with prizes, pumpkin carving, and, most essential to any successful Halloween: free candy.

The 575 RHA Pumpkin Party is in the HoJo pool room, 575 Commonwealth Ave., from 3 to 5 p.m.

Night of Fright

BU’s Student Activities is sponsoring a Night of Fright at Barrett’s Haunted Mansion in Abington, Mass. Warning: event organizers note that the night of terror, fright, and fun “is not for Halloweenies.” In addition to the haunted mansion, participants will also be able to try an open air corn maze called the Compound, included in the ticket price.

A Night of Fright is from 5:45 to 9:15 p.m. at Barrett’s Haunted Mansion, 1235 Bedford St., Abington, Mass. Buy tickets ($5) here. There are no refunds. A bus leaves from the GSU Plaza at 5:45 p.m. and departs Barrett’s Haunted Mansion at 9:15 p.m., returning to campus at 10 p.m.

HKSA x BUTASA x CSA Haunted House: Carnival of Terror

This haunted house is an American Horror Story fan’s dream come true. The Hong Kong Student Association, Chinese Students Association, and BU Taiwanese-American Student Association are hosting a carnival-themed haunted house, based on the fourth season of the FX hit horror anthology series American Horror Story—Freak Show. The spooky setup will include cultural elements.

HKSA x BUTASA x CSA Haunted House: Carnival of Terror is from 7 to 11 p.m. in the SAC Gym, One University Rd.; free to BU students.

Coolidge Corner Theatre’s 16th Annual Halloween Horror Marathon

If you love horror films, then head over to the Coolidge Corner Theatre. The six-film series kicks off with a double feature of the Wes Craven classics Scream and Scream 2. The rest are shrouded in mystery, the titles unveiled as each film begins. Caution: nightmares may ensue.

Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St., Brookline. Purchase tickets to the 16th Annual Halloween Horror Marathon ($25 and up) here. The marathon begins at 11:59 p.m.

Sunday, October 30

SoWa Spooktacular

SoWa Open Market, featuring crafts, vintage clothing and accessories, fresh produce and flowers, food trucks, and more is celebrating its final market of the season with a SoWa Spooktacular Halloween party. In addition to 150 artists, farmers, vendors, and food trucks, there will also be pumpkin painting, live music, and three costume contests: one for humans, one for pets, and a third for vendors. Take some time planning your costume because winners will receive a $500 Visa gift card.

The SoWa Spooktacular is Sunday, October 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the SoWa Open Market, 460 Harrison Ave., Boston; free and open to the public Enter the costume contest at the market’s info booth on Thayer Street (between 450 and 460 Harrison Ave.) between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Take any inbound Green Line trolley to Copley Square, a number 9 bus to City Point/Copley Square via Arlington Street, and get off at the Albany and East Berkeley stop.

Monday, October 31

Pokémon Go Halloween Walk

Pokémon Go Halloween Walk

Given this year’s Pokémon Go craze, it was perhaps inevitable there would be a Halloween event with a Pokémon Go tie-in. This is it. So throw on your costume or cosplay and join hundreds of other Pokémon trainers for a fun-filled night. Trainers will meet at the Boston Common at 7 p.m. and disperse in teams to go across the city, with a goal of catching as many Pokémon as possible. Everyone will regroup on the Boston Common at 10 p.m.

The Pokémon Go Halloween Walk is free and runs from 7 p.m. to midnight. Participants are encouraged to bring candy and treats to share. Take a Green Line trolley to Park Street.

Beacon Hill with a BOO! Walking Tour

For the past 30 years, Boston by Foot’s Beacon Hill with a BOO! Walking Tour has been part of the city’s annual Halloween celebrations. While most people know Beacon Hill for its boutiques, restaurants, and elegant architecture, this tour introduces participants to its darker history of murder and mayhem. Among the tour stops: the former home of the infamously murdered Dr. George Parkman. You’ll hear stories about serial killers, apparitions of ministers, murderers who walk in their sleep—it’s Beacon Hill as you’ve never experienced it before.

The Boston by Foot Beacon Hill with a BOO! Walking Tour runs from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and meets in front of the Massachusetts State House, 24 Beacon St., Boston. Purchase tickets ($20, $10 for members) here or in person by cash. Take a Green Line trolley to Park Street.

Coolidge Corner Theatre Halloween Double Feature: Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Coolidge Corner Theatre’s homage to Halloween is a double feature, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, featuring two of Hollywood’s most notorios killers, Norman Bates, and Leatherface. It’s a night to dismember (sorry, their pun, not ours).

The Coolidge Corner Theatre Halloween Double Feature starts at 7 p.m. at the theater, 290 Harvard Street, Brookline. Purchase tickets ($11.25 for adults, $9.25 for children and seniors) here.

Kyler Sumter can be reached at

This was originally published here. 

Brunch Bets: @Union

Allston eatery aims to foster sense of community

When @Union opened in 2009, its goal was to provide great food and coffee to a diverse community that includes college students, families, artists, and young professionals. It’s still making good on that six years out, its American fusion menu and fresh house-roasted coffee attracting long lines, not to mention a weekend brunch that’s a major draw among locals.

We visited early on a recent Saturday afternoon and found a short line to get a table. The moment you enter, the restaurant’s commitment to fostering a sense of community is apparent. Patrons are greeted by a Community Board filled with photographs of customers and coffee cup sleeves designed by customers. Under the board is a table full of flyers promoting local events.

One look at the extensive menu told us why every table was taken. The breakfast side orders alone top out at over 20 items. Brunch offerings include oatmeal, breakfast sandwiches, eggs, French toast, pancakes, eggs benedict, omelets, sandwiches, and salads.

The menu’s first page has seasonal specialties, ranging from a lobster benedict ($12.99) to pumpkin pancakes ($8.25). We were torn about what to select, but the wine rosemary French toast ($8.99) sounded too intriguing to pass up. We also opted for an iced pumpkin pie latte ($4). When we ordered, our waitress assured us we had made the right decision.

wine rosemary French toast

The wine rosemary French toast looked delectable: four pieces of French toast covered in powdered sugar, oozing with French brie, garnished with raspberries, and served with a red wine rosemary syrup. It exceeded our expectations. The combination of ingredients was bliss and packed a flavorful punch. We were equally glad to have ordered the latte. We’d been afraid the pumpkin taste might overpower the drink, but the flavor was light and delicate and balanced well with the coffee.

Brunch patrons can choose from more than a dozen omelets (there’s also a build-your-own omelet option). Choices range from a Mediterranean omelet with sautéed spinach, kalamata olives, tomato, pepperoncini peppers, and feta cheese ($8.95) to a ricelette omelet with sautéed steak and onions, green peppers, white rice, and cheddar cheese ($8.25). We wanted to try something a little different, so instead of a traditional omelet we chose the shrimp frittata ($10.95), with sautéed baby shrimp, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, cheddar cheese, and homemade salsa. It was obvious we’d made the right choice—patrons around us turned their heads to get a better view when our meal came. The frittata tasted hearty and fresh, the shrimp well-seasoned and a nice contrast to the flavorful salsa topping. The soft and cheesy texture was offset by the crunchy toast and potatoes, which were tasty, but could have used more seasoning.

The drink menu has fresh fruit smoothies, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and traditional alcoholic brunch beverages like mimosas. But the coffee is a real standout. The restaurant roasts its 100 percent fair-trade Arabica coffee beans on the premises, and a bottomless cup comes with any meal. You can also buy the coffee by the half pound to take home.

iced pumpkin latte drink

It’s easy to see why @Union has become a staple in the Allston community. It offers a relaxed setting for families and friends to gather over a leisurely and delicious meal.

@Union, 174 Harvard Ave., Allston, is open Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; phone: 617-779-0077; all major credit cards accepted. Take an MBTA Green Line B trolley to Harvard Avenue.

Kyler Sumter can be reached at

This was originally published here.

Lunch, Anyone? Crispy Crepes Café New location, same satisfying menu


Crispy Crepes Café’s has moved from Park Drive to the center of campus. The new place is smaller but still offers dozens of delicious crepes. Photos by Alexandra Wimley (COM’17)

When Crispy Crepes Café closed its doors last fall, many BU students and Boston residents were disappointed. The café in South Campus, near the intersection of Park Drive and Beacon Street, had been a favorite of crepe lovers since it opened in 2002. Happily, the restaurant, reopened in April and right in the center of campus, at 714 Commonwealth Avenue, a cause for rejoicing for BU fans.

We stopped by on a recent Saturday to see what had changed and what remained the same. It was mostly empty when we arrived, with a few people coming in every now and then for to-go orders. The café had to downsize when it moved—the new spot has seating for just 18 (it could accommodate up to 48 previously), which means that it has less of a sit-down ambiance than it once did. But the menu that earned legions of fans over the years has remained mostly intact.

Naturally, we knew that we wanted to try one of the crepes, but choosing was no easy decision. The menu has five different kinds of crepes: sweet crepes, one of the dozen plus is banana and honey-glazed almonds ($6.95); savory gourmet crepes, a tomato, grilled zucchini, and roasted pepper crepe ($6.50) is among the several options; vegetarian crepes, like a three mushroom crepe ($7.75) that comes with roasted mushrooms, spinach, and creamy goat cheese; signature crepes, which feature the popular California crepe ($7,95), loaded with turkey, tomato, cucumber, avocado, spinach, and jack cheese; and the super crepes, giving diners the option of ordering one of four specific sweet crepes and adding their choice of two sides (potatoes, bacon, ham, sausage, and scrambled eggs) ($9.95).

We settled on a sweet crepe, but that was only half the battle. Next we had to decide whether to go with something seasonal like the apple, brown sugar, cinnamon, and caramel ($7.95) or something fruitier. We chose the strawberries, banana, and Nutella ($7.95). The presentation was mouthwatering: the powdered sugar and Nutella gracing the top resembled a work of art. The strawberries and bananas balanced each other nicely, but the Nutella was a bit of a disappointment—not very flavorful and the consistency was a bit watery. Fortunately, the powdered sugar provided the missing flavor. Next time out, we’ll try the apple, brown sugar, cinnamon, and caramel crepe.

The strawberries, banana, and Nutella crepe.

Along with our crepe we also ordered from the breakfast menu. (Breakfast is served until 4 p.m. daily.) We opted for the Blue breakfast, a grilled blueberry muffin, a small cheese omelette, turkey bacon, and home fries ($7.95). We’d never tried a grilled muffin, so we were curious and decided to order it. It exceeded our expectations—a tasty balance of savory and sweet, the crunchy and buttery top was grilled to perfection. The rest was soft and the juicy blueberries packed a lot of flavor. Our only complaint about the small cheese omelette was its size: the combination of melted American cheese and fluffy eggs was so good it had us wishing for more. Restaurants often undercook or overcook turkey bacon, but not here: it was a balance of chewy and crisp without being overdone or burnt. The home fries were well-seasoned and had a distinctive tang that made them stand out.

Crepes and breakfast food aren’t the only dishes the Mediterranean-style café offers. The menu also includes salads, like a new one topped with grilled lamb ($10); grilled paninis, such as the Tuscan ($8), with chicken, wild greens, roasted peppers, provolone cheese, and pesto mayo; meat roll-ups, among them one stuffed with beef shawarma ($7.85); vegetarian roll-ups, such as one filled with hummus, tahini, lettuce, and onion and seasoned with lemon and garlic ($6.50); and pasta dishes, e.g., the BU Special: ziti with sautéed chicken, garlic, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and roma tomatoes ($12.50).

Crispy Crepes may have moved, but its goal remains the same: as its website states, the café aims to bring “the delicious taste of French crepes to a convenient location right in the heart of BU in Boston.” Stop by to see for yourself why this café has so many devoted customers.

Crispy Crepe’s Café, 714 Commonwealth Ave., is open Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; phone: 617-859-9585.

Originally published here.