A 50th for the Future
The Africana Center’s 50th anniversary celebration in October attracted alumni and friends from across the country, rekindling friendships and affirming the center’s vital place in the life of the university.
From a welcoming reception and the fifth annual Homecoming Tailgate Affair to a Wakanda Gala and jazz brunch, the festivities spanned three days. That enthusiastic spirit testified to the enduring legacy of the center, a home and a voice for students of African descent since it began as the Afro-American Cultural Center in 1969.
The anniversary’s success also translated into a groundswell of support for the center’s future. Those efforts are being carried forward with a landmark fundraising initiative, 50 for the 50th.
Led by the Tufts Black Alumni Association, the endeavor aims to inspire leadership support from at least 50 donors. Gifts support the center’s annual fund and strengthen the center as a multifaceted resource for students from across the university.
The campaign seeks 50 donors to contribute $1,000 or more by June 30. Each gift fuels center priorities, including renovations to the lower level; funding for students to attend conferences; support for guest speakers, lectures, and special events; and stipends for peer leaders. Donors can also give to funds that support the mission of the Africana Center, including the Bruce-Griffey Leadership and Diversity Internship Fund, the Gerald R. Gill Professorship of Race, Culture, and Society, and the Greg Hunter A92 Memorial Fund.
“This anniversary is a pivotal moment for elevating engagement,” said Katrina Moore, the Africana Center’s director. “There was a powerful and warm sense of community that you could feel when people came back, some for the first time in decades. It was also gratifying to learn that many people returned home and told their former classmates: ‘Come back to Tufts. Maybe you had a difficult experience, but we see change.’ We were excited to share how our services, our events, our academic support programs—how everything we’re doing—have grown to meet student needs and expectations.”
Learn more about the Africana Center on the web at go.tufts.edu/Africana.
Show your support for 50 for the 50th effort at go.tufts.edu/giveAfricana.
What alumni are saying
“The Afro House, as it was called when I attended, was the place to hang out and commune. It was a place to meet with politicians and engage in serious discussions around the civil rights movement, and also a place to enjoy Kwanzaa parties, study groups, or take turns on the pool table. I found people who looked like me, who had similar interests and backgrounds, and yet many who were also different. This engaged me to further open my mind. So when I discovered that the center’s lower level needed improvements, I proposed supporting a renovation that would bring students together in an effort to replicate some of my experiences and bring new energy to an underused space.
Tufts deserves accolades for supporting the Africana Center for more than 50 years. Not only does it foster cultural awareness, support students of color in navigating the most transformational years of their lives, and connect alumni, it is a necessary platform from which every voice is heard and respected.”
Trustee Janice Savin Williams, J79, member of the Board of Advisors for Athletics, is co-founder and senior managing director of Siebert Williams Shank & Co. She was recognized at the 50th anniversary event with the Africana Center’s first alumni service award.
“The Africana Center was a haven, a place where I could relax and just be myself. It’s important to have people who understand what experiences are impacting your happiness. You need that connection to build self-confidence and to feel empowered to make the most of your education. The peer mentoring I found at the center fostered my appreciation for an unselfish experience; we felt like family. That family feeling helped motivate me to organize a 50th anniversary welcoming reception. I got on the phone, and I persuaded about 20 people to come and join us. They heard about everything we were doing, and they realized—I don’t want to miss this!
My work on behalf of the Africana Center is one way of living a life of legacy. As alumni and I hung out at the reunion, we took the time to meet and talk with the students. We all agreed: They are great. We love them! We are obligated to help them like we were helped. What resonated with me as we engaged with them was this is what it means to carry on the legacy of the center. It’s sharing love in both directions, with the past and the future.”
Doug Harris, A81, is the chief executive officer of the Kaleidoscope Group, with three decades of experience in diversity and inclusion consulting.
“When I was at Tufts, there was no Africana Center, so my involvement came much later, in the 1980s, when I met [late history professor] Gerald Gill. He was doing groundbreaking research on African American students at Tufts, and I appreciated the integral part that work played in underscoring the relevance of the Africana Center. I also had conversations with students who graduated after me. One was Eric Washington, [A76], who later became my chief judge while I was on the Court of Appeals. He was part of a much larger African American student population, and for all of them during that time, the center was extremely important.
It’s also important that African American students see Tufts hiring and supporting African American professors who strengthen the university’s academic mission. I know the Africana Center has played an extremely important role in making sure their presence is valued and continues to be valued. Through the years, I have come to see the importance of the center as it relates to a student’s personal life. I refer to it as a place for calming down and coming to know that you can succeed at Tufts. That’s why I was happy to make a contribution for the renovation of the lower level. I also have a great nephew who just started at Tufts as a graduate student, and the first thing I did was encourage him to say hello to Katrina; he should know the center is there for him.”
Inez Smith Reid, J59, trustee emerita and member of the Board of Advisors for the School of Arts and Sciences, held high-level posts that included inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency and associate judge on the DC Court of Appeals.