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Much more than a dorm, Drew Hall is a learning community that matures men, connects them to Howard and prepares them to lead.

Pictured: Students participate in the "Burning of Fears Ceremony."

Photo by Justin D. Knight

 
 

Drew Hall’s Upgrade Is Intended to Strengthen Its Legacy
By Andrew B. Jones, senior, School of Communications;
intern, Office of University Communications

Charles Drew Hall, the male freshman residence hall on Howard’s campus, is undergoing a major renovation as part of the renewal of its historic legacy. Much more than a dorm, Drew Hall is a learning community that matures men, connects them to Howard and prepares them to lead. This renovation is an investment in that community and in the overall Howard experience for young men.

The renovation plans include a much-needed improvement of the heating system, a process that is expected to last through much of the 2009 fall semester. The renovation will also permit air conditioning to be added at a later time.

In the near future, Drew Hall residents will be able to “work in a more comfortable environment,” said Charles Gibbs, interim vice provost of Student Affairs.

More importantly, the improvement will build on the legacy of brotherhood and service that distinguishes Drew Hall. According to Marc Lee, interim dean of Residence Life, the renovation will “remove distractions so that students can focus on their academic pursuits, and it will also help indoctrinate the spirit of Howard, success and brotherhood.”

That spirit stems from the legacy of its namesake, Charles Drew, M.D., the former surgeon, researcher and professor at Howard who developed techniques for blood storage and whose research led to the development of blood banks. Although the hall was constructed in 1957, the culture became more defined when Lee, who is also the former community director of Drew Hall, assumed leadership in 2001. As Lee said, “[we wanted] to work to carve a structure of developing boys into Howard men,” through implementing programs, culture and discipline.

Based on developmental psychology theories, African culture and the principles of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Drew Hall’s culture promotes “brotherhood and a possibility for Black men to network and become a family,” said Nicholas Owen, Drew Hall’s graduate assistant and a former resident.

The legacy includes programs such as “Man Talk,” the “Burning of Fears Ceremony” and the naming of each floor. “Man Talk” is a monthly discussion session, which often brings politicians, lawyers, corporate executives and government officials to Drew Hall to enumerate the responsibility and possibility of the residents’ futures. Additionally, each of the five floors in the hall is assigned a Swahili name, which sets the tone for the residents on that floor.

“Names like kuumba or creativity, and kujiiichagulia or self-determination, allow residents to establish an “academic and cultural web to develop a greater understanding of themselves,” said Lee.

The “Burning of Fears Ceremony” is an intense ritual held at the start of each academic year with the new residents. The young freshmen line up, march outside and toss a piece of paper with their greatest fear written on it into a fire. The moving experience includes chants and songs, and “marks a dismantling of personal fears and foes, the first step toward achievement of ultimate goals,” said Nicholas Gourdine, Drew Hall’s community director.

Through the renovation, programs and culture, it is clear that the residents are, as Gourdine puts it, soaking it in. The legacy continues with the men in the class of 2013, who already seem to have absorbed the Drew Hall heritage of turning boys into men.

Freshman Marcus Carey agrees, classifying his Drew Hall experience as eye opening. “We’re really a brotherhood and we’ve only known each other for a month,” he said.


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