Umoja House honor walk

The Lehigh community kicks off the 30th anniversary celebration of the founding of Umoja House with an honor walk from the house's first location at Warren Square to its current location on the Hill.

Umoja House Celebrates 30th Anniversary with Honor Walk, Block Party

The Lehigh community kicks off anniversary of Umoja House founding. More events planned.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Photography by

Christa Neu

In recognition of the founding of Umoja House 30 years ago, Lehigh students, staff, faculty and administrators joined in an honor walk through campus on Thursday, Oct. 24, that began at Umoja’s original location at Warren Square A and ended at its current location on The Hill.

The Honor Walk, one in a series of events that are scheduled to commemorate the community’s founding, culminated with a block party featuring music, food, games, caricatures and balloon sculpting.

“On behalf of the Umoja 30th Planning Committee, we’re so delighted to have you here at the spot where all of this began,” said Dahlia Hylton, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, as she addressed participants from the front porch of Warren Square A. 

“It’s really awesome to see how Lehigh University is working as an institution to really advance what multiculturalism looks like in many different forms and this [honor walk] is very much an illustration or manifestation of what all of that work is still about,” she continued. “Thirty years ago, 16 students championed together to create a space at Lehigh, with the provision that it will promote cultural awareness, visibility and community outreach for all of its residents.”

According to a witten history of Umoja House, co-founder Leon Caldwell ’91 had approached then-President Peter Likins about the cultural need for a residential “safe” space for students of color. That led to the establishment of the Umoja House, which opened its doors in Fall 1989 to become the first campus residents for “AAHANA” students (African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American). The name of the house means unity in Swahili.

“As the years progressed,” Hylton said, “the Umoja House has stood the test of time through many trials and triumphs, remaining as an edifice that continues to promote unity by upholding the values of black and Latinix cultures.”

The theme of the 30th anniversary celebration is “honoring the past, embracing the future.” In connection with the celebration, an Umoja Family Photo Gallery exhibit is on display in the Fairchild-Martindale Gallery behind the FML Café. The exhibit includes portraits of Umoja residents through the years taken by Lehigh staff photographer Christa Neu.

The celebration will continue on Lehigh/Lafayette weekend, with a welcome reception for returning alumni in the campus home of President John D. Simon on Friday, Nov. 22. On Saturday, Nov. 23, there will be a breakfast at Umoja House, a tailgate party on Goodman Campus before the game and “The Vibe” Umoja Celebration Party in the evening in Iacocca Hall.

For more information visit

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Photography by

Christa Neu

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