Mayor praises students’ efforts to promote black culture

Mayor Anthony Williams praised the efforts of a handful of students who have studied and promoted black culture at a Friday luncheon for the group at the Alumni House.

The students – eight male and one female – are members of the George Washington Williams House, a living and learning community studying the history of blacks in D.C. Their house takes the name of the nation’s first major black historian, who published the “History of the Negro Race in America, 1619-1880” in 1882.

“D.C. has such a deep and rich and long black history that you can learn national black history by studying D.C.,” said Bernard Demczuk, GW’s assistant vice president of government relations for the District of Columbia, who serves as the group’s faculty advisor.

“Even having the mayor here is part of that,” he added.

At an intimate sit-down luncheon with students and University officials, Williams emphasized the “unique African-American nature of our city.”

“Our city is strong because of our universities,” he told the 25 people in attendance. “Our city is stronger because of our students.”

The community does not only allow its members to study history on trips to the Civil War Memorial and U Street neighborhood. It also serves a gathering place for the University’s black students, said senior Stephen Harris, the house’s student coordinator. Blacks comprise about 5.3 percent of the undergraduate population.

As a freshman, Harris felt disengaged from the black community. He spent a lot of time hanging out with friends attending Georgetown University.

“I just really felt as if the African-American community wasn’t being promoted,” he said in an interview before Friday’s luncheon.

This year, his house has sponsored events designed to bring together black freshmen and upperclassmen.

“Because of the house and because of the people in the house, the black community is being promoted,” Harris said.

Harris, co-president of the Black Student Union, noted that his housemates are all campus leaders. Student Association President Omar Woodard and SA Sen. C.J. Calloway live in the house, located on 22nd Street across from the Smith Center.

Harris said he would like to see the LLC continue to be an “integral part” of GW’s black community. Seven students have signed up to participate in the community next year.

-Sam Sherraden contributed to this report.

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