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Harambee bounces back after low enrollment

Harambee House struggled with low membership, lives on to see 25th year on campus

Harambee House will remain on campus this semester after risking its program house status last year due to low enrollment, marking its 25th year at the University.

The house, founded in 1993, “serves as a community space centered on the issues and concerns of the black community at Brown,” according to its profile on the Student Activities Office’s website.

Harambee House was listed on the University’s unrecognized organizations webpage in January 2019. But it did not lose its program house status, wrote Assistant Director for Greek and Program House Engagement Megan Fox in an email to The Herald. Instead, “a leadership change … needed to take place and the new leadership took on the role of keeping things going,” she wrote.

Under new leadership, Harambee recruited 33 students to live in its allotted space in Chapin House this year, and its leaders are looking to grow the house further. By spreading awareness of Harambee to first-year students, House Head and President Jared Jones ’22 said the executive board hopes to give the Class of ’23 “the opportunity and the desire” to live in-house.

Leaders have also been making improvements to Harambee’s home in Chapin, which had become “a little destitute,” Jones said. They added a mural to Harambee’s stairwell, painted by Zoe Carson ’23, renovated its lounge and worked with the University to repaint the space, according to Events Coordinator Aliko LeBlanc ’22.

“We’re just trying to celebrate Harambee and the people who use Harambee,” said Community Building Director Christina Bonaparte ’22.

In addition to its 2018-19 recruitment difficulties, Harambee struggled with low enrollment in 2009 and 2013. During those years of low enrollment, the group was still able to recruit members to live in-house and thereby maintain its program house status, The Herald previously reported.

When Harambee’s status was threatened this time, students petitioned several deans and SAO, Jones said.

“Harambee is an extremely important aspect of black student life on campus,” Bonaparte said. The house hosts events like the recent “Black at Brown Barbecue,” which over 100 people attended Bonaparte said. In addition, student groups like the Black Student Union, the Black Pre-Med Society and the Black Pre-Law Association use Harambee’s space, she added.

“It’s a space that, wherever you come from in the black diaspora, you can come and feel comfortable,” LeBlanc said. “Harambee was on the verge of being taken away, and we didn’t want to see that as a community because we felt we needed that space on campus.”

Harambee House will host its 25th anniversary party on October 19.



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