Dear Alumnae and Alumni:
Harvard Black Alumni Weekend (HBAW) of 2003 was successful beyond the imagination of all who assisted with its planning and organization. Although the Weekend turned out to be the largest gathering of black graduates in Harvard's history, making it happen involved extensive probing, discovery and adjustments. No reliable surveys were available to the planners about the interests of black alumnae and alumni of Harvard and Radcliffe and much of what was available was anecdotal. Lacking detailed knowledge of alumni interests, the decision was made to emphasize the value of simply congregating and celebrating the rich, 130 year-old black legacy at Harvard. Therefore, the foremost objective of HBAW 2003 was to convince black alums that their return to campus was intrinsically valuable.
More than 600 excited alumni came to see the Harvard of today, to share with undergraduates their reflections on the Harvard of their experiences, and to help influence the Harvard of the future. We recognized that the majority of black graduates had been on campus during the years between the establishment of the Afro American Studies Department in 1969 and the ending of apartheid in South Africa in 1994, yet the majority had not returned to campus as alumni/ae. Having worked in the Admissions Office during all but a few months of that period, I witnessed how Harvard changed from a college with only token racial integration to a campus with significant ethnic diversity. It was a time of transition, political activism, and discordance for all Harvard students, but especially for black students. Given this, I was apprehensive about how black alumni might receive our invitation. Instead I found that most of those who attended left Cambridge with an increased desire to stay in contact with each other and to become more involved in the affairs of the University.
Much the way the 2003 celebration of our legacy served as a catalyst for renewed commitment to participating in Harvard's future, our sincere hope is that the 2006 Weekend's series of in-depth discussions will promote fruitful dialogue prompting members of our community to sustain and perhaps even enhance their involvement in the Black community at and beyond Harvard. In the spirit of the Weekend's theme, "Roots and Revision," we aspire to first examine issues of historical relevance to members of our Black community such as: the status of the African and African American Studies Department; Black alumni involvement in the University; healthcare and chronic disease in our community; politics and whether there is a "Black" political agenda; Black representations in the media; Black community development; philanthropic endeavors; the role of the Black church; and so forth. A second objective is to leverage the intellect and capabilities of Weekend attendees toward a course of action for addressing the issues of utmost importance to our community.
The literal meaning of the plural Latin gerundive, agenda , is " things to be done " and with timely input from alumnae and alumni much will be done at HBAW 2006. With your collective suggestions in hand, we can assure you that the agenda of HBAW 2006 will reflect the things you want done .
We look forward to seeing you in September!
With kindest regards, I am,
David L. Evans
Senior Admissions Officer