A group of Black students at Harvard early this semester formed the African and African American Resistance Organization, a dedicated space for activism around issues relevant to Black students across the University.
Co-founders said the group — also known as AFRO — was created in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling against race-based affirmative action as well as a “swatting” last spring that saw four Black undergraduates ordered out of their bedrooms at gunpoint by campus police officers. Harvard’s subsequent response drew criticism from campus activists.
The group’s formation was also largely inspired by the Harvard-Radcliffe Association for African and Afro-American Students, a student group that contributed to the creation of the African and African American Studies Department in 1968 by publishing an advertisement in The Crimson with a set of demands for the administration.
Currently, the group has roughly 56 members, according to co-founder Clyve Lawrence ’25.
Kojo Acheampong ’26, one of the co-founders of the group, said he and the other founders noticed a lack of organization among Black students’ engagement with political issues.
“There was no real political space for people to actually do organizing work,” Acheampong said. “It became very evident with the swatting incident, especially, that this was such a needed space and something that could actually create the change on campus that we need to see.”
Both AFRO and the Harvard-Radcliffe Association for African and Afro-American Students — which also called itself AFRO — self-identify as “militant” in that they do not “seek to engage with” administration and do not see the administration as a “method of change.”
Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment for this article.
The modern group is co-founded by Acheampong, Kiersten B. Hash ’25, Amari M. Butler ’25, and Crimson Editorial editors Prince A. Williams ’25 and Lawrence.
Lawrence said the group has three primary short-term goals. First, the group aims to address concerns surrounding campus policing, including calling for the complete demilitarization of the Harvard University Police Department.
Second, the group plans to organize around changes to Harvard College’s admissions practices, including ending legacy preferences and encouraging a “more reparative view” of affirmative action geared toward benefitting Black applicants.
Finally, the group is calling for an increase in Black mental health professionals in Counseling and Mental Health Service, including reviewing the organization’s purpose on campus.
In the long term, Lawrence said the group wants to see a Harvard that is more “inclusive” for Black students.
“Not just more inclusive in the way that we typically think about it, but one that is actually working toward more liberatory ends — ones that address the needs of Black people more holistically, ones that Black people feel proud of, ones that Black people take ownership of and derive self-worth from,” Lawrence said.
AFRO held its second meeting of the semester on Sunday to discuss goals for the semester and bring together interested students.
Isaac Lagrandeur Brown ’27, who attended the meeting because he witnessed social change through organizing in his hometown of Miami, said he is interested in addressing concerns around HUPD.
“I want AFRO to talk about how [police] are part of a broader system of criminalizing poverty, and then sending the same people that are then criminalized for poverty to jail, and creating a vicious cycle of poor living conditions,” Brown said. “I want political education when it comes to that. I want demonstrations right outside of Smith.”
HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano wrote in an emailed statement that the department “is committed to providing a safe and secure campus through quality policing and treats all persons with dignity and respect.”
The Dean of Students Office has paused official recognition for new clubs for the 2023-24 year, but Lawrence said AFRO has no interest in this designation.
“We do not believe that being a DSO-recognized organization will help our cause because we feel like we are inherently pushing the University for something that is outside the typical purview of a Harvard-recognized organization,” Lawrence said.
Acheampong said he believes the Harvard administration is “naturally” unlikely to produce change for Black students.
“We need to pressure administration. We need to demand of administration, we need to work against administration to get what we deserve on campus,” Acheampong said. “So, how are we a recognized group if that’s their ideology? If that’s their stance?”
“We believe our recognition comes from the students themselves,” Lawrence added.