“Too often the story was, and still is, told, as if there weren’t silences, which hurts us all — especially hurting those whose stories and omissions commit many sins.” Young emphasized “not simply recording, but testifying … of witnessing, which isn’t just seeing, but also saying. Such witnessing wins out.”
In describing his Harvard years, Young talked about mentors, friends, transformative classes, and more, explaining “the search was key.” He remarked on the impact that Black professors like Carolivia Herron had on him, teaching “me to teach and also how to be,” and recounting the collective work to relaunch Diaspora, the journal of Black art and culture.
He described the journal as “part of the epic that we were making called Blackness.” Young said working with others on the journal created “our own ad hoc Black studies program.” He also talked about his membership in the Dark Room Collective, an influential African American poetry organization started in the 1980s and based in Cambridge. “[W]e knew that Blackness was everywhere … it was in our music, our dancing, our talk, our luck.”
Young concluded by reading a poem that explored the freedom he found at Harvard — “O how high we jump/ Reaching for the sky” — and shared poignant memories and “the lessons that link us.”
A ‘community grounded in purpose’
The Annual Meeting, as is tradition, also celebrated and honored Harvard’s global alumni community.
Harvard Alumni Association President John West, M.B.A. ’95, described “the potential collective power of Harvard’s 400,000 global alumni [as] an awesome opportunity and responsibility” to “create positive impact, do good, [and] drive change in the world.” He singled out HAA’s work to empower and connect alumni around the world and noted specific efforts led by the volunteers on the HAA board, including an anti-racism initiative and public narrative projects.
Philip Lovejoy, Harvard Alumni Asociation executive director and associate vice president, thanked all those volunteers and alumni who are making a difference, noting the community’s strength “is in its diversity of opinions, life experiences, and thought.” He noted those who created a series of virtual panels that sought to create dialogue about solutions to the climate crisis. He went on to commend the work of alumni “mobilizing to buttress democracy” and those who worked to amplify and celebrate the voices of underrepresented groups and others around the world.
Chief Marshal of the 25th Reunion Anurima Bhargava ’96 built on the theme of alumni working together for the common good. “We are a community grounded in purpose, [that] serves and creates together, from building organizations to educating street children in Kenya, to knocking on doors and gathering virtually to write postcards, to telling stories and making documentaries that give voice to the silenced.” Bhargava is the director and president of Anthem of Us, a strategic advisory firm that helps institutions and communities center equity and belonging in everything they do.
After presenting Harvard Medals to this year’s winners as well as last year’s, Bacow lauded the alumni who stepped up during the pandemic to support Harvard’s students, offering help with internet connections, access to workspace, and more. He thanked others for the “connections and resources that put tons — literally tons — of gloves, gowns, masks, and shields into the hands of people caring for the most vulnerable among us.”
The event also included musical interludes from the Harvard Choir, Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra, and the Harvard Band. The alumnae of the Radcliffe Choral Society presented their recording of “Radcliffe, Now We Rise to Greet Thee,” the Radcliffe alma mater, to honor the contributions of Radcliffe College and its alumnae and to mark its historical significance for women and men alike, said West, introducing the song. The members and alumnae of the group met virtually each month for the past year to record the song.
To view the entire Annual Meeting, visit the Harvard Alumni Association website.
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