Leaders of the Black Students Association (BSA), which released the long-awaited guide, say they hope it will promote a greater sense of community among black students at the College.
The mammoth 322-page guide is the first comprehensive publication on resources for black students, and contains a history of blacks at the College. It has listings of professors, restaurants and hair salons, and has facetious commentary about black life at the College.
DuBois Professor of the Humanities and chair of the Afro-American studies department Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. kicked off the festivities Saturday by praising the guide’s editors for continuing the dialogue about the black experience at Harvard.
“On behalf of the all the black alumni of Harvard, we are proud of you,” Gates said.
The event—which also commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Afro-American studies department and the beginning of Black History Month—featured a slide show of black history at Harvard and speeches by two of the guide’s editors, Marques J. Redd ’04 and Toussaint G. Losier ’04.
“I can’t believe this project is over. I feel as if I have just given birth,” Redd joked.
Redd said that the guide is meant to a restore a sense of community among blacks that he says was damaged by the randomization of the Houses that began in 1999.
Before randomization, many black and Hispanic students lived together in the Quad, producing a cohesion among blacks that Redd said has dissipated since the College began randomly assigning student blocking groups to Houses.
“Many students feared that they would simply become token members of Houses swallowed by the larger population,” Redd said. “The guide is a response to this phenomenon.”
Students who attended the dinner said they think the guide will increase a sense of community among blacks.
“It will definitely bring a lot of members of the black community on the same page with ideas of what black community is, its past and where it should be in the future,” said Rashan Jibowu ’06, president of the Freshman Black Table. “It is common ground for us to move forward on.”
The Guide emphasizes that black students at the College are no longer “unduly circumscribed by race” like some of the black graduates who came before them.
In its dedication, “I Was in Harvard, But Not of It,” the editors write that blacks now regularly join formerly all-white campus organizations like final clubs, the Glee Club and the Hasty Pudding Club. It also notes that blacks have held prominent leadership positions, serving on the Undergraduate Council and as Class Marshals.
But Harvard still has room for improvement, according to the Guide.
It includes a segment entitled “The Top Ten Organizations that Need More Black People,” listing major campus organizations such as the Institute of Politics, the yearbook and The Crimson.