Posted on May 22, 2007

Students Air Racism Concerns

Anna L. Tong, Harvard Crimson, May 14

A call to Harvard University police about a Saturday afternooon event organized by the Black Men’s Forum (BMF) and the Association of Black Harvard Women (ABHW) has prompted accusations of racism.

As members of the groups played games of dodgeball and capture-the-flag in the Quad as part of the annual “BMF-ABHW Challenge,” Cabot House residents fired off a string of impassioned e-mails questioning students’ presence on the public lawn—and whether they were students at all. Eventually, the Harvard University Police Department was called about the commotion, and officers asked the students to “keep the noise down,” according to police spokesman Steven G. Catalano.

Debate ensued over the motivation behind the HUPD call, and 60 students turned out to a dinner discussion last night sponsored by the Currier House race relations tutors. The BMF has also announced that it will stage a publicity campaign to dispel racial stereotypes.

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Barnhill said that many of the participants had been wearing Harvard paraphernalia and the event had been approved by all the Quad House masters. He said the call to HUPD was “disturbing” because of the “assumption that we didn’t belong there.”

Barnhill and ABHW President Anjelica M. Kelly ‘09 both said they felt racism was involved in Saturday’s events.

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Some residents complained that the students were playing on roped-off sections of the Quad lawn, where the grass was being regrown for graduation ceremonies. Others were angry over the fact that the noise came in the middle of reading period, as students studied for exams and worked on papers.

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Barnhill said that the events would have a silver lining because they brought sensitive racial issues to light.

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Barnhill said he has been inspired to spearhead a campaign called “I am Harvard,” aimed at “eliminating the notion that Harvard isn’t a place for minorities, women, and other sorts of people that defy your standard Harvard profile.”

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