Yale University

Class News

Class Council meets with students from Yale Afro American Cultural Center

At the conclusion of the annual 1964 Class Council meeting on February 6, 2016, the Council invited a panel of five current Yale students to offer their observations on current campus life, especially in light of the campus unrest last fall.  This was not an “advocacy” matter on the part of the Council, but rather an interest in hearing the perspectives of these students, unfiltered by the media.  Three of the students were undergraduates, and two were in graduate school.  Three of them were women, and two were men.

In his introduction of the panel, Class Secretary Tony Lavely said:

“This afternoon, we have an opportunity to hear from five Yale students — both undergraduate and graduate students — who are members of the Yale Afro American Cultural Center.  It is my hope that this will give us a perspective that media coverage of campus events last Fall has not.

As the Council members remember, we were not a very diverse group in 1960-64.  For one, we were all male.  For another, only 1.1% were of African heritage.  That being said, many members of the Class were very active in the Civil Rights Movement, then and since then.  This is best chronicled in Howard Gillette's seminal book, Class Divide: Yale '64 and the Conflicted Legacy of  the Sixties.  Howard has kindly autographed a copy for each student as a way of showing our appreciation to them for coming today.

Given our time constraints — we are limited to one hour — this is designed to be a learning opportunity for the Council.  It is not a debate format. Tempting as it might be for Council members to want to share their views with these students, that will have to come at another place and time.

Rise Nelson Burrow

So with these expectations, let me give a very brief introduction of each student and then let them expand on their activities at Yale as they wish.  Most of all, we want their perspectives and views on the issues of the day on this campus.” 

Lavely also expressed appreciation to Rise Nelson Burrow, Director of the Afro American Cultural Center and Assistant Dean of Yale College, who recruited the panel.


Amber Koonce is a second-year law student at Yale Law School where she is President of the Black Law Students Association and serves on the Dean's Diversity and Inclusion Committee. An aspiring civil-rights litigator, Amber is from North Carolina and has spent her legal education working on voting-rights litigation, capital-defense litigation, and affirmative litigation. Prior to law school, Amber served as an appointee to the board of the North Carolina Council for Women and as a policy analyst for the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation in the Philippines. After graduating, Amber will clerk for Judge William Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit.


Denzell Jobson is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College from Brooklyn, New York majoring in Political Science. He is currently the President of the Black Men’s Union and formerly held the position of Community Outreach Chair in his sophomore year.  Denzell is also a sprinter on the Yale varsity track team, a student member of the Dwight Hall Executive Board, a Yale Student Ambassador, and a member of the Black Student Alliance at Yale.


Elizabeth Spenst is a sophomore majoring in African American Studies at Yale by way of Fort Lee, New Jersey. She is a student assistant at the Afro American Cultural Center, the Editor-in-Chief of DOWN Magazine, the co-curator of a blog on Black poetry and art, a member of the Yale Gospel Choir, and a Chaplaincy Fellow for Morse College. She is interested in pursuing museum studies and arts administration after college.


Gabby Cudjoe-Wilkes is a first-year Masters of Divinity candidate at Yale Divinity School (YDS) and Student Senator for the Yale Graduate and Professional Student Senate. Before enrolling at YDS, Cudjoe-Wilkes worked as a public relations, events, and strategy specialist for her company, Brydge Media Collective LLC, which she still continues to run. Cudjoe-Wilkes holds a B.A. in Public Relations from Hampton University and a M.A. in Music Business from New York University. She also currently serves on the pastoral staff at The Greater Allen A.M.E.Cathedral of New York. She resides in both Harlem, NY and New Haven, CT.


Khalid Attalla is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College, pursuing a BA in Economics and Political Science.  Born in Sudan and raised in the state of Colorado, Khalid currently lives in Dubai and has amassed extensive international experience which has profoundly influenced his studies and his interactions with his peers. During his time at Yale, Khalid has been involved with student government, as a representative to the various class councils and the Yale College Council, and with a number of cultural organizations including the International Students’ Organization, the Arab Students Association, and the Muslim Students Association. Most recently, Khalid was the President of the Yale African Students Association, the umbrella group serving the needs of African undergraduates and managing the student body’s engagement with issues on the African continent. As an economist by training and a politician by inclination, Khalid hopes to attend law school after a few years in the workforce, ultimately culminating in a career in government.

The students all expressed appreciation to the Council for inviting them to listen to their views of campus life.  After the meeting, several Council members visited the Afro American Cultural Center to continue conversations with the students.

Most Council members expressed support for this initiative (that is, meeting students face-to-face on campus) and hoped that future Council meetings would provide similar opportunities.