Living in the Museum

The Harlem Renaissance Center (HRC) has long been a place of great diversity and culture on campus. This week, HRC opened its doors to the rest of the Colgate community.In honor of Black History Month, HRC was turned into a museum from February 21 to 26. The African American Student Association (AASA), Brothers, Sisters of the Round Table (SORT), Caribbean Student Association (CSA) and residents of the HRC sponsored the museum. These student groups united to celebrate black history and culture around the world and at Colgate.The walls of the building were lined with artwork and biographies, and residents led tours through the halls, explaining the importance of each display. Each floor was sponsored by one of the student groups and featured a different theme.The first floor was sponsored by Brothers and featured important men in black history, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. “We tried to [select] people a lot of Colgate students wouldn’t have heard of and important people in black history,” junior Rodney Mason, one of the main organizers of the HRC museum, said. “We especially wanted to do Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. He was a congressman who had a lot to do with education reform, but not a lot of people know he was a Colgate graduate.”SORT was in charge of the second floor, where they set out to empower women of color. Artwork of and by women of all races lined the wall, as well as biographies of influential colored women, such as abolitionist Harriet Tubman, author Zora Neale Hurston and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, who has run for president.Dedicated to Caribbean culture, the third floor was put together by CSA. This section featured Caribbean heroes, ranging from Toussaint L’Ouverture to Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley.The history of HRC was also showcased. Photo displays in the basement documented events from HRC history, and newspaper clippings were featured prominently in the first floor lounge.Founded in 1982 by Erick Bowon ’84, Ken Frazier ’85 and Kirk McDaniel ’85, HRC has helped many students find their place at Colgate. Despite this seemingly necessary function that the HRC serves, there is still a lot of controversy surrounding the residence.It is hoped that the museum will help dispel some of this controversy.”We wanted to address all the stereotypes about the HRC, all the rumors you’ve heard,” Mason said. “We wanted to say ‘Come and see,’ so that no one would have an excuse to say they’d never been in the building.”