Talk:V: Assignment of Spaces
African American Theme House, Housing Procedure Change - 4/28/11
Author: Joe Ferrara, AATH Board Rep
Brief Description of Proposal: The African American Theme House would like to propose that African American Studies and Ethnic Studies Majors (including Asian American Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies, and Native American Studies) receive priority on the waiting list for placement at the African American Theme House, as well as applicants that are affiliated with a social organization in alliance with the African American Theme House.
Pertinent History: The original African American Theme House was a part of the UC Berkeley Theme Housing program. When the University eliminated the Theme Housing program, the preexisting structure for the African American Theme House (2524 Dwight Way) was consequentially discontinued. In 1997, the BSC purchased the property for the current African American Theme House (2347 Prospect Street).The University replaced the African American Theme House with the African American Theme Program, commonly known as the Afro floor of Christian Hall, in the Unit 1 residence hall.
The BSC intended to create African American Theme House as a cultural space and a place of activism that would not be under the control of the University, as with the residence halls. Its purpose was to be a space for African Americans who are active in the community. All of the history is gone into in much more depth in the attached document about the history of the African American Theme House. The document was written in 2004 by members of the house, and everyone should read it.
When the African American Theme House was created in the BSC in 1997, its membership was almost entirely all black. Over the years, the membership has changed, and today, there is only one black student living at the African American Themed House. As noted in the history article, and as we have discovered first hand, recruitment to change the diversity of the house is a difficult thing. Among the problems, is who to target, and how to target them, along with the major issue that African Americans do not want to live at Afro House because there are no African Americans there.
When the house was founded, because the members were black, it had a real role in the community, and did outreach to the community. Today, the house has absolutely no role in the community. No one in the house can recall the house ever having any role, in spite of the required outreach hours and outreach manager. In an attempt to change this, we now do volunteer work every Saturday by volunteering at a community center in West Oakland. This is Outreach, but it does not make the house present in the African American community.
Consequently, Afro House is not looked well upon in the African American community at Cal, and African Americans do not want to live there. Similarly, others view Afro House as a enjoyable, small living space that does not have a long waitlist. I heard from members of the house and friends before I moved into Afro, that it is least aligned with cooperative values which other coops represent, and it is easy to get into because no African Americans live there. The point of the proposal is that if people want to live at Afro House for the right reasons, the reasons that the house exists (a space for the African American community and Outreach to the community) then they should get priority over those who just want to live at a coop. Trying to determine who wants to live at Afro House for the right reasons is a difficult thing to do. One thing that is almost undoubtedly true, is that African American Studies and Ethnic Studies majors will care about the community and want to live at Afro House for the right reasons. The same can be said of people that are affiliated with organizations that Afro House works with. This is why we would like to give them priority over others to live at Afro House.