WORDS OF THANKS—From left: Maxine Bruhns, director of the Nationality Rooms Program at the University of Pittsburgh, and Rev. Maureen Cross Bolden, African Heritage Classroom Committee chairperson, present a letter and certificate of Thanks, July 21, at the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning, to National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club Inc. members Elizabeth Chaney, North Central District governor; Marie Castillo, national president & CEO; and Rhonda Carson Leach, Pittsburgh Club president, for their organization’s contribution to the building of the classroom. (Photo by Gail Manker)

In 1984 several women from the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club Inc. rallied together and contributed $10,000 for a classroom on the third floor of the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning that would pay homage to African people and culture.

This week, during its national convention being held here in Pittsburgh, that same organization of women had an opportunity to visit the classroom that it had a large hand in building.

On July 21, at the Cathedral of Learning, the African Heritage Classroom Committee presented the officers of the NANBPWC with a certificate and note of thanks for their generous contribution made 30 years ago.

Rhonda Carson Leach, president of the Pittsburgh Club of NANBPWC and director of Pitt’s Urban Entrepreneurship business program, said the visit to the classroom was “incredible.  The fact that we had a place in the foundation of it and then to come back years later, it was almost like we came full circle.”

The tour of the classroom was just one part of the activities hosted during NANBPWC’s 79th convention being held at the Omni William Penn through July 26. Leach said, “it was such an honor and we were delighted” for the AHCC to recognize her organization for its efforts and who they are.

The African Heritage Classroom is one of 29 Nationality Classrooms located at the University of Pittsburgh. The room, which was dedicated in 1989, is celebrating the 25th anniversary of that dedication and opening. It includes revolving displays and African masks, carvings and furnishings. The room even exhibits a photo of the late Nelson Mandela, whose birthday was celebrated days ago as a day of service.

The AHCC’s mission is to educate students about the continent of Africa through its presenting and sponsoring of cultural and educational programs that represent authentic African heritage. They also award scholarships for summer study abroad opportunities in various African countries.

Katharine A. Fitts, the AHCC’s program chair, said it was great to have the women of the NANBPWC visit. “It’s a pleasure that their still around and that we’re still around as well.”

Fitts said the room cost $250,000 to build and while most of the money for the African Heritage Classroom has come from the African-American community, the NANBPWC’s contribution is still the largest to be made by any organization.

The AHCC plans to host a trip in 2015 to South Carolina’s Gullah Island, where many of the African slaves were taken, and the African culture and language still thrives today.

(For more information on the African Heritage Classroom Committee, call 412-403-6839.)


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