Celebrating 40 Years of the Harlem Renaissance Center

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From Friday, Sept. 23, to Saturday, Sept. 24, Colgate University hosted campus community members and alumni as it celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance Center (HRC), a sophomore residential living-learning community centered around Black history and culture, race, racism, and topics related to the African diaspora.

Taking place during homecoming weekend, the celebration included a range of activities, including panel discussions, workshops, tours of the HRC, a film screening, and an anniversary dinner featuring speeches from both current students and distinguished alumni.

“For the past four decades, the HRC has served as a place of assembly, belonging, support, celebration, and learning for many of our Black students and students of color,” said Dorsey Spencer Jr., dean of students. “As a campus community, we must acknowledge and celebrate the positive impact the HRC has made at Colgate.”

Kicking off the celebration on Friday evening, community members gathered for a screening of Men of Mark, a documentary by filmmaker Jacqueline King-Howell ’97, chronicling the lives and legacies of Colgate’s first Black students. Following the screening, panelists Diane Ciccone ’74, P’10, former provost and dean of the faculty Tracey Hucks ’87, MA’90, and the filmmaker herself engaged in conversations about the past, present, and future of the Black experience at Colgate. Spencer moderated the discussion.

The celebration continued with guided tours of the HRC residence hall and newly renovated lounge, ultimately leading guests to the Edge Café for an anniversary dinner, punctuated by speeches from current HRC residents and alumni.

Trinity West ’24, president of the Black Student Union (BSU), expressed appreciation to attendees for coming to the celebration and recognized all those involved in making it a reality: the offices of the Dean of the College and Dean of Students, Hancock Commons, alumni relations, ALANA Cultural Center, Office of Student Involvement, First@Colgate, the Office of University Communications and Events, BSU, the HRC, and countless student volunteers. 

Rahneke Worrell ’25, a current resident of the HRC, shared a brief history, starting with its creation in 1982, detailing the challenges that the center has faced, and concluding with recognition of the flourishing community that the HRC is today.

“From its inception, the Harlem Renaissance Center has played a key role in promoting self-discovery, learning, and leadership in its residents and creating a rich, intellectual and social atmosphere where students can find comfort,” Worrell explained. “For myself and other HRC residents today, the center continues to be instrumental to both our Colgate experience and personal development.”

Keynote speaker Erick Bowen ’84 shared his experiences co-founding the HRC with Kenneth Frazier ’85 and spoke of the important role that he sees the center continuing to play in student life today.

“Your dining table and where you lay your head are very intimate spaces,” Bowen said. “Our hope was to create a space for ourselves and for people like us at Colgate, where we could feel safe, grow our confidence, and be unapologetically Black in the way that we interacted with one another. The HRC became the home we had been looking for.”

Bowen called on students to continue the legacy of the HRC and make Colgate a more equitable and diverse campus. “While celebrating the history and existence of HRC is uplifting, I pray that the current students of color continue to push Colgate forward. Please, family, strive to make Colgate feel more like home by engaging and guiding the University to a place where it ultimately needs to be.”