News from Alumni House

The Afro-American Cultural Center Turns 40

Nicholas Roman Lewis ’93 is director of shared interest groups at the Association of Yale Alumni. 

Alumni are returning to Yale in record numbers.

But not in ways that you might think.

Over the past year and a half, since the implementation of the new AYA strategic plan, the AYA and the development office have been instrumental in supporting 18 reunions or conferences above and beyond the traditional class reunions. What are they? The Duke's Men's 55th, the Yale Debate Association's 100th, the first Yale Latino reunion, the Yale Alumni in Energy National Conference, the first Yale LGBT reunion, the Spizzwinks' 95th, Shades' 20th, the Yale Alumni Real Estate Association National Real Estate Conference -- to name but a few.

All told, attendance at these events exceeded 3,000 alumni, friends, and family members.

This is the new AYA.

An unexpected, but most welcome, surprise of the AYA's new strategic plan has been the tremendous response to our more active support of the many so-called SIGs, or shared interest groups. SIGs are alumni organizations, in addition to our classes and clubs, which include 1) identity groups (such as Black, Latino, Asian/Asian American, LGBT, Native American, and women), 2) interest groups based on what you did as a student (Yale Alumni Chorus, Political Union Alumni Association, the many athletic team alumni associations, et al.), and 3) interest groups based on your current vocation (Yale Alumni Real Estate Association, Yale in Hollywood, etc.). There are more than 100 of these groups, most with formal boards of directors and very active membership rosters.

Another milestone for our identity groups will occur this fall. In October, the AYA is proud to support the 40th anniversary of the Afro-American Cultural Center (known to its friends as “the House”). Importantly, it will also serve as the inauguration of the Yale Black Alumni Association (YBAA), a formal organization being designed to meet the needs and expectations of Black alumni.

I take both professional and personal pride in being able to work with such dynamic individuals in developing the YBAA. Because of the AYA's new strategic initiatives and the resulting funding of my position to directly support Black alumni, the YBAA has undergone a year of strategic planning and mission building that will more effectively and inspiringly support the House, students, our communities, and each other.

But to be clear, the YBAA would not be a possibility if it were not for the profound legacy the House bestows upon every freshman that steps through its doors. As a student, I may not have known the name of the House founders, or each detail of the inspiring stories of the generations that came before me, but I did know that I belonged. And when you are a young Black man in a university where others have belonged for centuries, that simple fact, that affirmation of acceptance, can make all the difference in the world.

During the 40th we will make much of past triumphs and challenges, revel in the new reality of what Black people in America can actually achieve, and lay the groundwork for the success of the next generation.

The theme of the reunion will be “Charting a Course for the Next Generation of Black Yalies.” It is a weekend for Yale alumni, current students, faculty, and administrators to come together and reflect on the history of the House, from its founding during the civil rights movement to the present “Obama era”; assess the current state of affairs at Yale and within the greater global community; and create a plan for building our future. The weekend will feature a plenary session with the most nationally prominent of our alumni, roundtables and work sessions that highlight the Black experience at Yale and its influence in our communities, faculty lectures, alumni exhibits, and artistic performances.

It is sure to be the grandest of celebrations of the House.

Like Yale itself, the House is a promise for the future. Moving forward, the YBAA will provide an opportunity to assure the fulfillment of that promise, whether it be through mentoring, community service, social activities, or new programs that reflect the needs of our particular communities across the country and even the world. We are fortunate to have been given a legacy of excellence, and it is our duty to make sure that legacy thrives.

We look forward to welcoming everyone “back home” at Yale this fall, October 16-18. Registration information and a detailed program of events can be found online at Even if you will not be able to attend, please take a moment to enter your reflections about the House on our bio notes page, which can be found on the registration site.

Welcome home, everyone!

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