Kuumba (v., Swahili): to create.
Almost 50 years ago, in 1970, Harvard did not have a space like Kuumba for Black students. Racial tensions on campus and around the country were at an all-time high, and Black students were struggling to be heard, seen, and accepted on a campus that had not imagined or made room for their presence or their inevitable excellence. These Black students saw the need to create a home where they could celebrate who they were and where they came from without fear or apology. So, they created Kuumba.
Kuumba is a Swahili word that means to create and in our community we take that to mean doing what we can with what we have to leave a space better than we found it. This mission permeates and motivates our performances, our community work, and our unabashed celebration of Black art. We firmly believe that Black art sustains and directs our culture; it reminds us of our past, makes us mindful of the present, and gives us hope and guidance for the future. And we are committed—now more than ever before—to celebrating and magnifying it wherever we go. As we head into our 50th year of existence, we hope to continue to renew and revive this commitment.
Many have tried to define Kuumba in the past and make it fit into a box. But to fully understand exactly what Kuumba is—and what it can be for you—you must experience it first-hand. As an organization, Kuumba is a choir, an experience, a home, a refuge, a struggle, a dream, a responsibility, and most importantly, Kuumba is a family.
In Kuumba, we end our rehearsals in a circle. In this circle, we share our blessings, our hopes, our dreams, and our sorrows. Nothing is too small or too large for us to shoulder or lift up as a community. It exemplifies, in the best way possible, what Kuumba has been, is, and can be for so many: a circle of support and a bridge over troubled water. Like a circle, it is infinite and whole, and like a bridge, it continues to stand the test of time.
Whether you are a prospective member, an alumnus/ae, or an avid supporter, we invite you to come to any and all of the events we publicize on this website and our Facebook page, including our weekly rehearsals (Tuesdays & Thursdays in the Student Organization Center at Hilles) during the academic year. As a non-audition choir and as a community, this space is always open to all identities and their intersections. Come as you are.
In this 50th year, a year of not only celebration but also serious reflection, we are here to raise our voices and tell the world that Kuumba is here to stay. We truly hope that you will join us as we grow together, strive to leave spaces better than we found them, and honor our history through artistic expression, community involvement, and a continued commitment to fostering an atmosphere of creativity and social activism on Harvard’s campus and the Boston community.