I remember visiting Makuu Black Cultural Center during Quaker days in the spring of my senior year of high school. I was so nervous because I did not know anybody, but I still mustered up the strength to talk to people and socialize. Surprisingly, I was met with open arms as everyone in the space said hello to me and talked to me about the ins and outs of Penn’s campus.
Who would have thought that this encounter would have led me to go to Makuu almost every day from the beginning of my freshman year to now? I honestly thought that I would have gotten tired of going to Makuu, but I guess something inside me just stuck. Maybe it was the broader community of black folks that I was able to meet, or maybe it was the deep conversations about life that I had with Makuu’s Director Brian Peterson. All I am certain of is the fact that Makuu played an integral role in the formation of my identity at Penn, and I encourage anyone who has not been inside yet to check it out, along with any of the five other cultural centers on campus.
Going to the cultural centers in my opinion is a great experience that not a lot of Penn students take advantage of. By not going to these cultural centers, students are missing out on an opportunity to get connected to the broader Penn community and meet people with diverse cultural identities. Taking the time to visit any of these cultural centers allows students at Penn to learn more about the perspectives of a wider range of people.
Makuu Black cultural center has not only allowed me to meet students with diverse backgrounds, but it has also helped me network and stay connected to the broader campus community. Before coming to Makuu, I thought that the black community was so small and homogenous. But after meeting students from fraternities, Wharton, Nursing and Engineering, I understood that not every black person is the same, and that every person that I talked to is connected to some other facet of the Penn community that I did not know about.
Also, after becoming a member of the Makuu community, I began to learn about other resources that Makuu provides for black students at Penn. Because of my association with Makuu and Brian Peterson, I was able to know about the Robeson Cooper Scholars program.
This is a program that meets once a week and is facilitated by Brian and Makuu’s Associate Director Michelle Gillard. It is designed to track black freshman students during their time at Penn and provide them with the resources they need to survive on Penn’s campus.
In addition to the experiences I gained within the Makuu community, being at Makuu allowed me to connect with other cultural centers. The beauty of La Casa Latina, Makuu and PAACH being so close to each other in the ARCH is that I am able to go to all three cultural centers and hang out with the members of those communities. Even this past week, I think I travelled to La Casa Latina’s cultural house more times than Makuu.
And information about the cultural centers is not just limited to the ARCH. All the cultural centers are connected because they share and disseminate information across all of the different cultural groups, which means that at any given time, students can get information about events that are happening at Greenfield Intercultural Center, Penn’s Women’s Center and at the LGBT Center. Stabilizing yourself in one cultural center will allow you to visit other cultural centers, no matter which one you start with.
With that being said, I do wish that I had the time to visit more of the cultural centers on the other side of campus like Greenfield or the LGBT center. Therefore, I am making conscious efforts to get out of the ARCH sometimes and explore all the things that the other centers have to offer.
Overall, Makuu is a great environment at Penn. Whether it be the impromptu spades matches on a wobbly table, the late afternoon jam sessions where people fight over the aux cord or just a time to talk about things we saw in the various Black Penn GroupMe’s, Makuu has become a home for people like me. And even though things may happen and people may get into arguments, we are still drawn back to the space because, realistically, what family doesn’t get into a fight here and there?
JAMES FISHER is a College sophomore from the Bronx, N.Y., studying communication. “Spilling the Real Tea” usually appears every other Thursday.