Ajumma Rising Courtesy Ajumma Rising

Ajumma Rising

February 1, 2022: Serpent Day. Candy-Making Day. World Hijab Day. National Baked Alaska Day. International Face and Body Art Day. And a historic day when the Lunar New Year coincided with the first day of Black History Month—and a troupe of ajummas in top-to-toe uniform—perms, visors, puffy vests, patterned pants, and practical shoes—descended as a dancing flash mob upon the Joong Boo Market food court in Glenview and served up a heaping helping of joy, sass, and floral/paisley clash with the chapchae, buns, and soondubu. Step aside for your elders, BTS—the ajummas have arrived! 

But what is an ajumma? Korean for “middle-aged woman,” the average ajumma is known for her tenacity, her obsession with her kids, and her sharp elbows in a crowd. Like gochujang, she is spicy, robust, omnipresent, and a touch aged. And now she is also an icon for a sisterhood of shopping, eating, hip-hop-dancing sensations who take care of their families and take care of each other. 

“We are the new generation of ajummas,” says Ajumma Rising founder Joanne Yum Gutierrez. “A good chunk of us are Korean adoptees raised by non-Korean families—and we are not all Korean. Ashley Jackson, who choreographed the flash mob, is a Black single mother and an ajumma. If you are a middle-aged woman . . . if you have struggles, if you hustle and self-sacrifice for other people, if you work hard—if you fit that criteria, you’re an ajumma.”

YouTube video

If you’re an ajumma seeking other ajummas, you can apply to join the crew here

For a notion of the nosh at Joong Boo, get a gander here

Best of Chicago 2021 is
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sponsored in part by

curaleaf
Goethe Institut
Chicago History Museum

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