Wanawake Weusi: Providing a Support Network for 40 Years

As the College commemorates Wanawake Weusi’s milestone anniversary, it’s a celebration of something much greater than the group’s longevity. It’s a well-deserved acknowledgement of the support Wanawake has provided to students of color at Scripps since its inception 40 years ago.

Wanawake Weusi, which means “black woman” in Swahili, is a valuable element of the Scripps College experience for women of color. Raemi Thomas ’14, former president of Wanawake, says the organization’s anniversary is a reminder of “the 40 years there has been a specific resource on the Scripps campus dedicated to the comfort and advancement of black students and students of African ancestry.”

Quoting the group’s website: “Wanawake Weusi supports the social-economic, social-political, and spiritual well-being of women of color and aims to empower women of color in leadership positions, to educate women at Scripps and the 5Cs about issues concerning women of color, to be an active voice for women of color at Scripps, and to participate actively in issues concerning women and women’s rights.”

The group’s members emphasize the positive role modeling the organization provides and the importance of having a group of women who understand how uncomfortable it can be to be singled out.

“By far, the most unique aspect of the group is its ability to provide a sense of family on campus for its members,”Thomas says.

Wanawake members engage in significant community service projects as well as events during the year that unite members and enrich the larger Scripps community. As part of the anniversary celebration, the group organized the inaugural 5C Black Arts Festival, held in April. A studio art exhibit in Seal Court was followed by performance and video art in the Motley Coffeehouse; students from all five colleges contributed art, music, videos, and performances meant to explore the idea of blackness and its representations in the media.

“The event was a huge success,” says Daysha Edewi ’14, 5C events coordinator forWanawake. “More than 125 guests attended, which was more than we had anticipated.” Edewi concedes part of that success was due to hard work and diligent planning of the group’s leadership board. “My aggressive social media campaigning a week prior fostered a community on Facebook and stimulated the event goers’ interest in black arts.”

And that interest reverberated in the Wanawake community. “We saw a resurgence of members who had not been active with the group in years,” says Edewi, “and that was really amazing to see.”

As the festival’s coordinator, Edewi says she was equally amazed with her fellow group members’ ability to balance academics with the requirements of planning such an event. “Working with these women on the festival was a true testament to the well-rounded nature of a Scripps education.”

 

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