The African American Theme House is an autonomous housing cooperative within the Berkeley Student Cooperative (BSC). The BSC is a student run nonprofit whose mission is to "provide a quality, low-cost, cooperative housing community to university students, thereby providing an educational opportunity for students who might not otherwise be able to afford a university education." One of the smaller houses, located in the south Berkeley foothills down the street from Memorial Stadium, "Afro House" overlooks the campus and greater bay area. Previously a Slavic House, the BSC purchased the property in 1997. It was at that time current Berkeley student and Rochdale cooperative member Donald Foster advocated to turn the house into an African American themed house.
Afro House was bought at a time when diversity in the higher education system was under attack. The 1995 ballot proposition 209 prohibited using race as a factor when admitting students, resulting in a rapid decrease of many ethnic groups in higher education in California, especially at UC Berkeley. The number of African American students enrolling to Cal was 6.5% in 1995. Now the total numbrer of black students is lower than 3% of the student population. As black student numbers dwindled, the presence of an Afrocentric, community space became even more necessary. Realizing all of this, Donald Foster, former Rochdale Board Representative advocated for Afro House.
At the time the BSC was in the process of acquiring another house, Foster championed turning the new coop into an African American theme house. The mission of the house to this day is to "foster a supportive community for African American students [and to] work hard to encourage a sense of unity, spirituality, and dignity in the house that supports all members as well as the entire Black community at UC Berkeley." For the first few years Afro House was a flourishing, progressive black space that promoted a safe space off campus for black students at Berkeley.
Unfortunately this hasn't been the case for the past few years. In the 2011-2012 school year there was only one African American living in Afro House. This year there are six, but there is much more work needed to bring the culture back to what it once was. In order to address the lack of Afrocentrism within the house we have collaborated with the African American Themed Program at Cal. This program is designed for freshmen who want to be involved with the black community and "explore black experiences at Cal." This live-in program requires students to enroll in an African American studies course, engage in community service, and attend events through the African American Student Development Office. Together we have worked to improve the inside and outside of the house while simultaneously creating a stronger black presence.
We as students living in Afro House have voted to create a scholarship for this program so a few students can board at Afro. This means that as freshmen they can enjoy the benefits of being a boarder at Afro. Boarders are permitted a few meals each week that are made by members within Afro. This allows them to be apart of the house culture, thereby bringing us closer to our goal of bringing Afro back to what was originally envisioned by Donald Foster. Appropriately, we have decided to name the scholarship the "Donald Foster Boarder Scholarship" in thanks to the vision he gave us and for all the work he put into establishing Afro House.
We hope to raise $3500 to purchase a central level boarding contract. Scholarship receipients will be granted access to not only the house but nightly dinners and other food provided in the cooperative. The winners will be required to contribute meaningfuly to the house culture and help with any events designed to promote black culture within the house.
On behalf of Afro House and all our friends we thank you for considering donating
Afro House community tailgate. Afro House members and friends from Cal and Stanford come to socialize before the 2012 Big Game.