Ndona Muboyayi, a fifth-generation Evanstonian on her mother’s side, was raised in Evanston from the age of 4.
Growing up, as a young African American with a father from the Congo, she was hyperaware of issues of inequality in the community. She moved away in 1994, but returned 20 years later and felt like the same issues were still at large.
“When I moved back, I noticed there were issues that existed while I was growing up that seemed to have been exacerbated by lack of knowledge of certain communities that are not doing well,” she said.
Muboyayi said she feels like low-income communities, including older adults and immigrant and refugee families in Evanston, are overlooked, so she decided to create a nonprofit in Evanston, Majestic Reign, to help address these problems. The name Majestic Reign comes from a poem Muboyayi wrote during what she said was a “transformative” part of her life.
“Even though Evanston has a lot of resources, you have to know people to get the proper resources and sometimes trying to access those resources can be a little demeaning,” Muboyayi said. “No one wants other people to know they’re struggling. Especially when you live in a town that is considered to be progressive and supportive, it’s very hard for people to say they need help.”
Majestic Reign’s mission is to provide diverse after-school programs, camps, training sessions and development opportunities for Evanston youth, along with summer and spring break camps. Muboyayi’s idea is to incorporate STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and math – as the foundation of the program.
The nonprofit is still in its early stages; it was set to launch, but then the COVID-19 pandemic began. Programs will begin in the spring at the Robert Crown Community Center, Muboyayi said. While Majestic Reign is raising funds, most of the money so far has been from her own pocket due to a lack of donations, but Muboyayi believes the nonprofit will be worthwhile for low-income Evanston youth.
“The summer camps will focus on taking children on trips outside of Evanston,” Muboyayi said. “So many children I have met over the years have never left the Chicagoland area. I’m trying to show children in Evanston that there is so much more in the world, and we have more in common than we think.”
Majestic Reign has two upcoming events on the calendar: A Community Dinner from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, December 4, and a Holiday Party from 6 to 8 p.m. December 22.
The Community Dinner, catered by Edibly Me, originally was scheduled for November 21, before Thanksgiving, but Muboyayi said she decided to move the dinner to accommodate the many last-minute orders and residents that opted for pickup rather than dine-in.
The dinner will consist of turkey or ham, plus three sides, a dinner roll, peach cobbler or sweet potato pie, and a choice of juice, water or soda.
Orders for the meal have been extended until November 30; to qualify, one must be an older adult in Evanston or the parent/guardian or grandparent of child(ren) in District 65 or District 202 eligible for free or reduced lunch. Delivery is only available for older people and shelter residents; others will be able to pick up their meals from the Logan Family Gym on the second floor of the Robert Crown Community Center.
The Holiday Party will be nondenominational. Muboyayi said it will be a celebration of the holiday season and a welcoming of refugee and newly arrived immigrant families. The party will include music, food and gifts.