Diversity and multi-cultural inclusion has been a long sought and long fought goal here at the University of Rhode Island. As a higher learning institution we have come a long way, and it all started with a group of corageous students in the 60’s who created the very first multicultural organization on campus called Uhuru Sasa.
The year was 1968, there was a lot going on in the country at the time, the United States was reaching the end of the Civil Rights Movement and racial relations within our nation were very relevant. Back here at URI, students of color were feeling extremely underrepresented within the predominately white campus. Frustrated and upset with the lack of representation of students of color on campus, a group of students banded together and created URI’s very first multicultural organization, which we know today as Uhuru Sasa. Although the organization was founded in 1968, they weren’t recognized as an established multicultural organization until four years later in 1972.
In 1971 prior to adopting the name Uhuru Sasa – which in Swahili means “Freedom Now” – the multicultural group was initially known as the Afro-American Society. At that particular time in the United States student participation in the civil rights struggles was very common and much like SNCC, the Afro-Africa Society was a reflection of that student activism here at URI. Looking back to 1968, the year the group was founded, the Steering Committee on Higher Education released a memo on April 4th that indicated that out of 18,000 students, less than fifty black students attended Rhode Island’s three state colleges (URI, RIC, RIJC).
Going back to 1972 the members of the Afro-American Society came together and took over a university building in order to protest the negative environment the University of Rhode Island provided it’s students of color and how they neglected their obligation as an institution to serve and represent all students. The take over of the university building forced the URI community to reconsider some of the school’s policies in relations to diversity and multi-cultural inclusion as well addressing the concerns of ALL students. The Afro-American Society’s protest asked for a tremendous change in the university’s racial demographic. One of the protest’s biggest accomplishments was ensuring the survival of the Talent Development program here at URI.
Talent Development (TD) is a program created at URI to aid disadvantaged youth who didn’t have the necessary resources or financial stability to attend college. Thanks to Uhuru Sasa’s protest in 1971 the TD program still currently exists today aiding disadvantaged youth in Rhode Island offering them a college education.
After 45 years of existence Uhuru Sasa Is still active and running strong here at the University of Rhode Island. Sasa’s main objectives till this day are:
“Establishing and mainting the cultural. social, and educational enrichment of all people who work and study at the University and Community. It is Uhuru Sasa’s intentional to accomplish this through the pursuit of educational, historical, literacy, and artistic functions. “
Thank you once again, Uhuru Sasa, for all that you have done for minorities/students of color here at the University
Special thanks to Frank L. Forleo for the historical documents provided for this blog.
Article by Solomon Bee