February 12, 2016

Everything That Rises Must Converge

The residential experience of Harambee

If you ask anyone in Coolidge Tower where to find Harambee, they’ll immediately direct you to the 21st and 22nd floor. A place of open doors, positive messaging (“You are young, gifted + BLACK,” reads one hallway mirror: “There’s a world waiting for you. Yours is the quest that’s just begun.”), and a communal vibe, Harambee is the tower’s heart.

Harambee* is a Defined Residential Community: one of currently six shared living spaces on campus for students with similar interests, backgrounds, and identities—in this case, students of the African Diaspora. In Swahili, harambee means “the point where all things come together.”

By any estimation, the growth of Harambee as students of color search for solidarity is astonishing. First formed in the 1990s as a student initiative with support from the Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black and Other Minority Students (CCEBMS) Program and Afro-American Studies, Harambee has experienced a great surge of growth in recent years. The population of the community expanded from occupying half a floor to two full floors, growing through word of mouth and also proactive outreach. “You don’t know how uncomfortable you’ve been until you’re in a place where you feel like home,” says Allana Matthews ’16, a public heath major with a minor in social justice education. “I fell in love with the atmosphere and wanted to get involved.”

Harambee students gather in common rooms for programming like Barbershop where male students discuss what it means to be a man on campus (Note: It’s a real barbershop and you may actually get “fixed up”) and Soul Sister Sundays where women unite. “It’s a way to bond, to share our woes!” laughs Matthews. “But really to say, ‘You are my sister. I support you. I love you.’” 

Harambee has aims to add a third floor soon. Its activities are also open to non-residents. Says Danzel Jones, a junior in Communication, who was drawn to Harambee after transferring: “It’s a place for building your network, for building relationships with people from your own race.”

Matthews is emphatic: “If you’re hesitant about joining because you don’t know where you fit in, don’t hesitate! Apply.

*[ha-RAHM-bey]