Makuu: The Black Cultural Center is celebrating 20 years supporting the legacy of Black students at Penn.
Makuu opened in fall 2000 under the Vice Provost for University Life as a resource center for Penn students interested in Black culture and the African Diaspora. Makuu Associate Director Daina Troy said the center is celebrating 20 years by sharing old artifacts and pictures on social media from over the years. Troy said the center will also most likely celebrate the anniversary at the annual Kwanzaa dinner, a feast which celebrates the different cultures of the African Diaspora, in the fall.
The center is located on the basement of ARCH between two other cultural centers, La Casa Latina and the Pan-Asian American Community House.
Troy said the name Makao Makuu stands for “major home,” which represents how Makuu serves as an umbrella and central house for the many different subcultures of the African Diaspora. Troy added that Makuu also serves as a safe space for students from many different places and backgrounds.
“The importance of having a space like Makuu on Penn’s campus is a really welcoming environment that people can go to and feel comfortable that they’re surrounded by people who look like them,” Wharton first-year and Makuu social media representative Solomon Thomas said.
The role of Makuu changes each year to meet the needs of current students at the center, Troy said.
“The most pressing need this year, I think, is good information.” Troy said. “With the election coming up and a lot of different topics being brought up, one of the things we’re very keen on is separating propaganda from facts.”
College senior Nikki Thomas, who currently works as a student coordinator at Makuu, said she has been going to the cultural center since her first year. Nikki Thomas said Makuu has served as a home base for her and other Black students on campus.
“These spaces really coming into themselves in the past 20 years has made Penn a completely different place for me to experience than somebody else who looks like me would have experienced before,” Nikki Thomas said.
Solomon Thomas said he hopes to see Makuu continue to have strong programming and maintain its role as a welcoming place for students in the future.
“Looking back on 20 years, I’m very, very proud to be part of this legacy and really, really grateful that the people who came before me did what they did,” Nikki Thomas said. “I can’t imagine being on campus without Makuu.”
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