Click here to read our tribute to the late Dr. Walter J. Leonard
Kuumba (v., Swahili): to create.
45 years ago, a group of students came together to fill a void they saw on Harvard’s campus and in the Boston community. Recognizing the centrality of creativity to the human spirit, they lifted their voices together in song. What was created to address a specific moment in time has now grown into the oldest existing black organization at Harvard. Since 1970, the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College have been creating not only music, but community, connections and most of all, family. Our family has grown and changed in the last 45 years, but it remains anchored in a place of great power– strength in our past and our hopes for the future.
Our name, Kuumba, embodies our mission and vision: to proudly proclaim and celebrate the creativity and spirituality of Black people. Kuumba strives to do what we can with what we have to leave a space better than we inherited it. This essence permeates our performances, our community work, and the relationships we build with others. This essence is the vision of the Kuumba Singers. Kuumba continues to honor its cultural history and the legacy created by our predecessors through the songs we sing and the community involvement that we emphasize today. Whether you are a prospective member, an alumnus, or an avid supporter, we sincerely appreciate you visiting our site and supporting our work.
The past year has been an incredible year of reconnection, celebration and growth. Kicking off our 45th anniversary as an organization, Kuumba traveled to Washington D.C. to sing at the interment ceremony of Alain Locke, father of the Harlem Renaissance. In the early fall, Kuumba sponsored the first Blacktivism Conference, which brought together Black students from all over the country to take a stand as a community. A highlight of the conference was an encore performance of the student-written and produced play, I, Too, Am, Harvard, which gave voice to the unspoken experiences of Black students on campus and sparked a renewed interest in Black activism at Harvard and around the world. Later that fall, we had the opportunity to sing at the W.E.B. Du Bois medal ceremony for honorees Oprah Winfrey, Harry Belafonte, John Lewis, Steve McQueen, Shonda Rhimes and the late Maya Angelou. Next, we kicked off an historic winter with a night of worship and celebration at our annual Dr. S. Allen Counter Christmas Concert. Later that winter, despite the record snowfall, the choir ventured out into Boston to engage with our local community during our Wintersession Tour. In March 2014, our Black Arts Festival, themed Reflections on Freedom, showcased the artistic talent of the community as well as the work of young Black artists. During the festival we came together to not only celebrate the beauty of Black art but also to reflect on the trials that Black people have over come with the help and through the expression of Black art . We ended the festival with praise and worship led by the King of Gospel House Music, Kenny Bobien. Just a few days later we traded in the snow for some sun and warmth as we headed to North Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi for our annual spring tour. On our journey we reconnected with alumni, reflected on our history and forged new connections. Finally, we ended an exciting year with a weekend long celebration that gathered alumni from across the country for the 45th Annual Dean Archie C. Epps Spring Concert. To say the least, the weekend was a testament to the way that music can bring people together. It was a true celebration of a family that continues to create something much larger than ourselves.
During the upcoming year, we aspire to build on all of these successes and continue to find new ways to create and celebrate Black art. On December 4th and 5th of this year, we will hold our 45th Annual Dr. S. Allen Counter Christmas Concert in Memorial Church in Harvard Yard. In January of 2015, we hope to repeat the success of last year’s Wintersession Tour throughout the Boston area. This upcoming spring, we will also present the 18th annual Dr. Walter J. Leonard Black Arts Festival, an extraordinary weekend celebration of art from the African Diaspora. Following this celebration, we will embark on our Spring Tour in March to spread Kuumba’s vision and mission outside of the greater Boston area. Finally, we invite choir alumni and supporters to join us in April, 2016 for the 46th Annual Dean Archie C. Epps Spring Concert. These are just a few of the exciting opportunities you have to see the Kuumba Singers perform during the coming year – we invite you to regularly visit our “Events” tab to find out more about what we are up to and where you can expect to see us next.
During its nearly half-century of existence, the Kuumba Singers has achieved extensive accomplishments. Kuumba has served as a safe space and a source of support for its members in the Cambridge and greater Boston community. It has also served as a space for spiritual exploration, creative expression, and cultural understanding. Kuumba maintains its stance as a Black organization that strives to celebrate where we come from and where we have the potential to go.
Kuumba is not something that one can simply explain; rather, it is something that one must personally experience. We encourage you to take on this challenge by not only exploring our website and music, but experiencing Kuumba in person as well. We hope that you will support our creative efforts to expand the Kuumba community and to influence the community around us.