“So, what do you do here?”

We hear this question often at Makuu.
And we always have the same answer: We support you!

Makuu provides student resource advising, program support, and much more, helping students and student groups navigate the big and small challenges they may encounter as they strive to maximize their Penn experiences. Cultural excellence is the cornerstone of Makuu’s existence. The Center serves as a nurturing reminder that Penn students can and should define success in rich, holistic ways that add value to their personal experiences and the broader community.

Tonna Obaze, a freshman, participates in a candle lighting ceremony during the Makuu Black Cultural Center Kwanzaa celebration in Houston Hall at the University of Pa. in Philadelphia Monday, Dec. 7, 2015. (©2015 Mark Stehle Photography)


The Kwanzaa celebration, coordinated annually by Makuu, invites the University and West Philadelphia communities to experience the rich cultural heritage of the African Diaspora.  Centered on the Ngzo Saba (Seven Principles), Kwanzaa calls for the community to recommit to a spirit of collaboration, self-determination, and purpose. The celebatory feast (held a few weeks before the actual Kwanzaa holiday season, due to the academic calendar) brings together diverse scores of students, student groups, faculty, alumni, adminstrators, and community guests, to learn about the traditional values that Kwanzaa is built upon, and celebrate achievement – past, present, and future.

Robeson Cooper Scholars Program

Robeson Cooper Scholars

Since 2007, Makuu has operated the Robeson Scholars Program (renamed Robeson Cooper Scholars Program in 2014), to identify and nurture students interested in interdisciplinary social justice excellence in and out of the classroom. In modeling the lives of Paul Robeson and Anna Julia Cooper, students are encouraged to be leading scholars and organizational change agents. Robeson Cooper Scholars are mentored and challenged to develop their own sense of engagement with Penn and create spaces to assert their voices, be it through academic research, artistic expression, student group leadership, or some combination. Over the course of their Penn career, Robeson Cooper Scholars continue to serve as peer models for their classmates, mentors to future scholars, and active community members and leaders of the various student groups connected to Makuu, while also receiving mentoring from Penn faculty, staff, and alumni.

Approximately 15 Robeson Cooper Scholars are selected annually.

Paul Robeson and Anna Julia Cooper

Paul Robeson
Anna Julia Cooper

Named after two exemplary interdisciplinary scholars and activists, The Paul Robeson and Anna Julia Cooper Scholars Program, directed by Makuu: The Black Cultural Center, works with students interested in culturally relevant social justice issues (e.g., urban education, equitable opportunity distribution, Black feminism and gender politics, media (mis)representation, community empowerment through the arts, healthcare disparities). In their first year Scholars participate in leadership development workshops and civic engagement programming. They also receive peer mentoring and structured academic support throughout the academic year. Future Robeson Cooper years include participation in for-credit courses and supplemental workshops, faculty and alumni mentoring, and pipelining into additional leadership, academic, and internship opportunities to best prepare each scholar for their intended post-Penn career. Robeson Cooper alumni have gone on to top PhD programs, teaching fellowships (Teach for America and others) and other urban education roles, law school, public health, medical school, Wall Street, international work, public policy, social entrepreneurship, Google, and much more.

The Robeson Cooper Scholars program is open to Penn undergraduates from any school.

Students hanging out outside wearing matching shirts

Leadership Development

Makuu works directly with the elected Umoja student leadership board to support their efforts across the various academic, cultural, performance, and faith groups on campus. Additionally, Makuu maintains a strong relationship with Onyx Senior Honor Society, helping underclassmen aspire to be eligible for consideration in this prestigious group, and helping the organization give back throughout the campus and community. Finally, Makuu also supports BGAPSA’s efforts to inform and engage the Black graduate student population on campus.

Senior Celebration

Students at the University of Pennsylvania are among the most talented, intelligent, vibrant, and socially-conscious in the nation. Working with them at Makuu, we have the extreme pleasure of watching them grow during four of the most formative years of their lives. As each class graduates and moves on to their next phase in life, Makuu celebrates their achievements with an annual awards ceremony recognizing several individuals who have stood out, and the entire senior class for all that theyhave done together on campus.

Student talking to a large crowd of students

Ase Academy

Founded in 1999 by a group of Penn students, Ase Academy‘s mission is to create a community of young leaders committed to personal excellence, community development, and the successful completion of high school toward opportunities to continue their education. Ase connects these middle and high school students to Penn mentors, exposing them to campus during weekly seminars and activities. Makuu works with Ase’s undergraduate leaders and the various groups within Umoja to provide academic, arts, cultural, and community engagement opportunities for Ase’s participants.