On a Saturday night sometime last year, I “dorm-hopped” with one of my friends. We started off that night checking out the Socials. After several moments there, we decided to leave and explore other dorms on campus. We visited Morrow, Lipton, and Cohan, and then found ourselves in the Charles Drew Memorial Culture House.
We were immediately taken aback by the large windows, wooden panels, and overall newness of the building. If you’ve seen the house, you know that the architecture is simply breathtaking. We looked gratefully at the photography of African-American girls playing games and curiously at the portrait of Charles Drew near the grand piano. We sat at the grand piano and pretended to play Fallin’ by Alicia Keys. From the piano, we could see a calendar, which outlined the upcoming house discussion topics. I remember being completely and positively swept up by the idea of sitting in that beautifully cozy common room, having intimate conversations about social issues on campus and about race in America. We went up the carpeted stairs to the second floor where we knocked on doors until someone answered. We ended up talking with a junior for over an hour on his perspective on Amherst and its relationship to the “outside world.” It was incredible. After the conversation, we left and immediately put Drew at the top of our mental “Favorite Dorms on Campus” list.
I now live on the first floor of Charles Drew House and it is more amazing than it was that night last year. Charles Drew House is a theme house option for upperclassmen. Charles Drew was an African-American Amherst alum who worked as a physician and helped make blood transfusions more accessible to black Americans. Drew House is the black culture house. This means that any Amherst student, regardless of race or ethnicity, who is interested in learning about black culture, and in sharing black culture with the rest of the Amherst community, is able to live in the house. Each Drew resident must lead a house discussion and do a house project. So far this semester, I’ve attended discussions in that warm common room on topics ranging from AfroLatinidad to Iggy Azalea’s misappropriation of black culture. I recently attended a house project that included a viewing of an episode from “The Boondocks” called “Return of the King” and a discussion on the implications of that episode.
But what I love most about Charles Drew House is the sense of community. The family atmosphere. Upon my arrival, I was immediately and warmly welcomed by the house presidents. I was made to feel important and my presence was acknowledged from the very start. I love the fact that there are always people around either talking in the hallways, in the common room, or in the kitchen. I love that there are times when I come home (yes, home) to music sounding from the piano. My fellow Drewbies ask me how I’m doing and genuinely listen to my answers and I do the same. My friends in the house remember what I’ve told them and take the time to actually check up on me down the road. I’ve finally found the sense of community that I’ve been looking for and I’m thankful for it.