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Penn Student Government will contribute $200,000 to Makuu: The Black Cultural Center.

Credit: Hannah Lazar

Penn Student Government will contribute $250,000 to support programming for Black students at Penn.

Interim leader of the Undergraduate Assembly and rising College senior Jude Dartey announced in an email to undergraduate students Thursday afternoon that the money will come from the Student Activities Council Reserve Fund. 

The Reserve Fund holds money that goes unused by student groups at the end of each year. At the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic year, the fund held approximately $1.1 million.

$200,000 will go to Makuu: The Black Cultural Center, with $150,000 of this portion reserved for UMOJA and its coalition groups, which represents Black students on campus. The remaining $50,000 will go to the Center for Africana Studies at Penn to fund research by Black undergraduate students, Dartey wrote.

Dartey added that PSG members collaborated with Black student leaders to determine the best way to allocate the funds.

“Since the recent events that revealed the devastating effects of racial injustice in our nation, PSG has been working tirelessly to address the prevalence of racial inequality in our own community," Dartey wrote. "One of the main priorities of PSG has been to make concrete plans that confront the ways in which systems of oppression remain at Penn."

PSG is also calling on the University to annually allocate more funds to the Black community at Penn. Dartey said by both contributing money and calling on the University to do so, PSG could push Penn to contribute more to historically underfunded Black student groups.

"We wanted to make sure that there was some action behind [our statement]," Dartey said.

Former UA treasurer and rising College senior Kevin Zhou said that although this money will come from the SAC Reserve Fund, the University should consistently fund the Black community at Penn beyond what PSG can contribute.

“Why are we spending student money on these important issues when the University should be contributing to the cost itself?” Zhou said. 

UA representative and rising College and Wharton junior Janice Owusu added the shift to online classes in March due to the coronavirus pandemic left PSG's budget partially unspent, allowing them to allocate money to this initiative.

“$250,000 to the University of Pennsylvania is a drop in the bucket, but we can use that drop in the bucket to initiate something great,” she said.

Owusu said the money allocated to UMOJA will allow the group to promote its demands to the University, which include cutting ties with the Philadelphia police and giving Makuu a space on Locust Walk. The demands, released in June, echoed previous calls for cultural centers to move out of the basement of the ARCH and inhabit their own building on Locust.

“Supporting this initiative is basically saying that Black people on Penn's campus are worth more than just a 15 person space in the basement,” Owusu said.