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Kuum-munity at Harvard: My Home Away from Home

“Now this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air”


Okay, so plot twist, I’m not Will Smith, and this story is far less exciting, but equally as life changing. For starters, by “my life got flipped-turned upside down” I mean I surprised myself and got into Harvard (!!!!). Not only did I surprise myself by getting into Harvard, I surprised myself again when I decided to take a leap of faith and move across the country to actually attend this fabulous institution. By “I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air” I mean I’ll tell you how I became a member of a group called Kuumba. 

Now, it’s story time! I know, you’re excited.


I would like to precursor this story by saying two things:

1) I went to a high school that was 50% black people, and from what I had heard, Harvard was overwhelmingly white, so I was honestly petrified of coming to campus and not being in contact with black people on a regular basis.

2) I am the first in my family to go to college and I am one of the first people from my school to ever go to Harvard, so I had no college experience and knew absolutely no one here.

My first week of college was rather lonely. I was adjusting to a new place, I didn’t know anyone, and it had been a while since I had to make friends so I was lost on where to start. I talked to my proctor, the residential advisor in my freshman dorm, and he suggested joining an organization that I was interested in. So, I got to thinking about things I liked to do in high school and it occurred to me that all of my friendships formed since middle school were formed because of a choir. Therefore, I started looking for a choir. 


I wish there was some interesting story on how I found Kuumba, but I really do not remember how I came across this group, nevertheless I am happy I did. A little background: The Kuumba Singers of Harvard College, otherwise known simply as Kuumba, is Harvard’s oldest black organization and serves as a place to express black art and spirituality in all its forms. From the first rehearsal, I was hooked.

I was like so you’re telling me that I get to sing in a group of beautiful black and brown people…

Kuumba performs in their annual winter concert in First Parish Church

…perform for amazing people such as Rihanna as pictured below…

…travel the country…

Members of Kuumba walk across the historic Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, AL

Kuumba members visit the historic bus Rosa Parks rode on in Montgomery, AL

…and do various other cool things with people I actually like? Wow, sounds like a plan.

Kuumba members perform at National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia

Kuumba members visit CNN in Atlanta, Georgia

Kuumba members enjoy a night of singing, laughter and music in the home of an alumnus

(The faces of everyone in the last picture showcase our general excitement about being in such a spectacular group of individuals)

In all seriousness, because I was so scared to come to Harvard and be alone, finding a group of brilliant, incredibly talented, black people who can come together and express themselves freely made Harvard home for me. The love and support offered to me by this group has been overwhelming and I could not be luckier to be a part of such an impactful organization.

We always let people know that Kuumba is a Swahili word that means “to create” and we take that to mean doing what we can with what we have to leave a space better than we found it. In a weird way, this is not only a blog post, but a thank you to Kuumba and the people in the group for leaving my life, for leaving me, better than they found me. 

The author and several other friends pose for a picture during Kuumba rehearsal

No matter who you are, no matter where you end up going to school, I hope you find your Kuumba.




About the author

Hey y’all! My name is Alexa Brown. I am a proud first-gen college student, born and raised in Springfield, IL and now living in Dunster House (D Haus best house!). I spend most of my time... View full profile

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