A "Home Away From Home for Generations of Students," the Community Gathered this Weekend to Celebrate Harambee House

April 14, 2016
Alumnae view a photo at the Harambee House 45th Anniversary celebration
Ilyssa Greene Frey, Wellesley College Alumnae Association

This past weekend, the College celebrated the 45th anniversary of the establishment of Harambee House and honored this significant historical milestone with a weekend-long gathering themed "To Celebrate and Connect."

"Harambee House has been a home away from home for generations of students," said Pamm McNeil, president of Wellesley Alumnae of African Descent (WAAD). "As alumnae, we continue to feel a strong emotional bond with Harambee, and we are thrilled to celebrate its history with the Wellesley community."

Named after the Swahili term for "working together," Harambee House has been serving the Wellesley community of African descent and the College since 1970. The anniversary celebration welcomed over 200 students, faculty, staff, and alumnae for panel discussions, networking activities, a gala honoring Kathleen Daly '80, and a keynote address by Dr. Renita J. Weems '76. Because the event coincided with Campus Preview Weekend, approximately 22 prospective students and their families also joined in the festivities.

Panelists included: faculty members Associate Professor of American Studies Michael Jeffries, Assistant Professor of Mathematics Oscar Fernandez, and Assistant Professor of Art Nikki Greene; Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Joy St. John; and alumnae Karen Williamson '69 (moderator), Janet Hill '69, Ruth Wang'ondu '07, Nicci Page '01, and Malika Jeffries-El '96. Marseille Allen '01, who organized an effort to aid Flint, MI, residents during the water crisis, was the alumnae recipient of the Black Excellence Award. The celebration was organized in partnership with the Wellesley College Alumnae Association and Wellesley Alumnae of African Descent.

Tracey Cameron, assistant dean of intercultural education, director of Harambee House, and advisor to students of African descent, said her vision for the gathering was to bring alumnae back to campus so that they would have an opportunity to connect with current students. She said the events of the weekend were unlike anything she’s experienced at Wellesley. "To be among such accomplished women who have gone on to do such amazing things was very moving for me, and I’m sure for the students as well."

Emily Orgias '16 said that the most memorable moment of the weekend for her occurred during the Kathleen Daly '80 Black Excellence Gala. She recalled "looking around, and being very thankful for and inspired by being in a room full of such accomplished and diverse women of African descent, all together at once."

Orgias added, "The Harambee community is incredibly diverse, and this aspect of it means that Wellesley community members of African descent hopefully need never feel as if there is no one else in the group who can relate to their experiences. Even if you do not know who that someone is, there is a very high chance that they already exist somewhere in that network and you just have not found them yet."

Cameron shared that she was particularly inspired by the speech keynote speaker Weems, a biblical scholar, academic administrator, writer, ordained minister, and public intellectual, gave on Sunday morning. "I walked away from her presentation feeling spiritually nourished and fulfilled. It was a powerful message," Cameron said.