Club Shuts Down Party for Black Harvard and Yale Students

A Boston club shut down a party for black Harvard and Yale graduate students and alumni Saturday night after management said the event attracted “local gang bangers” and potentially “the wrong crowd.”

Michael Beal ’06, a second-year student at Harvard Business School and an organizer of the event, expressed frustration with Cure Lounge management’s decision in an e-mail sent to attendees apologizing and promising reimbursement.

“Regardless of our crowd representing the pinnacle of academic achievement as Harvard and Yale College alumni, Law, Medical, Business and PhD students, we were perceived as a threat because of our skin color,” Beal wrote.

According to the e-mail, the club bouncers reported seeing “local gang-bangers” in the crowd of black students. The club attempted to only allow access to students with Harvard and Yale student IDs, but the organizers insisted since alumni made up a bulk of the attendees, the bouncers should adhere to the guest list. At 10:45 p.m., the management decided to close the club to prevent what management called the “wrong crowd” from entering.

Natalia N. Pearson-Farrer, a second-year Harvard Law School student, said she arrived at the club at 10:30 p.m. to see a crowd of predominantly black Harvard and Yale students and alumni dressed in cocktail attire. By the time she got in, she said she was surprised to see the bouncers had let very few people in, and soon after, the club told patrons it was shutting down because of technical difficulties. After the truth was circulated, though, she said she felt frustrated and embarrassed.

Beal said a lengthy conversation with the club owner led him to believe he was not racist, and this only added to his “consternation around what this event says about race relations in our country.”

Harvard has a history of similar incidents. In 2007, campus police responded to calls from students concerned that a picnic organized and attended by black campus groups was a group of non-university affiliates. In 2009, Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr., professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Studies, was arrested in front of his house after Cambridge police thought he was trying to break in.

Pearson-Farrer said black university students face similar occurrences on a smaller scale relatively often. She cited black male friends who were turned out of clubs and bars because of their dress.

“I’ve never dealt with [an incident] this blatant, though,” she said, referring to the incident at Cure on Saturday night.

“I came to law school thinking that it would give me the power to be an agent of social change in my community,” she added. “Now I feel more powerless.”

Cure management did not return requests for comment.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: November 24, 2010

An earlier version of the Nov. 23 news article "Club Shuts Down Party for Black Harvard and Yale Students" incorrectly reported that Harvard University Police Department mistook a 2007 picnic attended by black campus groups as a group of non-university affiliates. In fact, HUPD had responded to calls from students concerned that the picnic attendees were non-university affiliates.

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