To properly grasp the importance of the contemporary success garnered by LYTEhouse, an organization aimed at providing mentorship and service, it should be understood that this is one of Morehouse College’s newest organizations. Founded in June 2016, there is a very distinct freshness and allure associated with LYTEhouse that has helped it swiftly become one of Morehouse’s premier student-run groups.
In less than a year, LYTEhouse has become a cornerstone of life in the Atlanta University Center. The notorious spherical emblem composed of the red lighthouse and a touch of white has been instilled in various campus locations and flyers on social media.
“We, the students of Morehouse and Spelman College, created LYTEhouse in an effort to give back to the youth through vessels that have helped us the most: mentorship, leadership and service,” Morehouse junior English major and president of LYTEhouse, Kamren Rollins, said. “It’s a guiding light for the scholars of the future … and most importantly, an obligation to ourselves to serve, teach and mold future leaders of our generation.”
The Lytehouse has a simple mission that its members have vowed to see through.
“I feel like a lot of campus organizations within Clark, Spelman and Morehouse kind of lose sight of the real reason of why their organizations are even around,” Spelman sophomore political science major and Community Service Chair Anta Njie said. “And I feel like any general member of LYTEhouse, hold ourselves to where we never lose the momentum or begin to become complacent to where we’re at. It’s not about having a popping e-board, or having a popping résumé.. it’s about popping in the community, and in campus that can be reflected through more than just Instagram likes. It’s always real.”
As the year progressed, and the LYTEhouse buzz would only continue to get louder, the team of social servants began to take action in developing innovative programs to combat homeless people having to sleep outside. LYTEhouse calls “shelter-lessness.”
The first initiative, “48 Hours,” allowed members of LYTEhouse to attempt to experience shelter-lessness for two days.
“During our 48-hour simulation, we were displaced several times by street or police officials, or having to move, because we were just that cold or tired,” Njie said. “We wanted to make the simulation as real as possible.”
However, LYTEhouse did not want to stay limited to constructing initiatives exclusively for members of their respective club. The group wanted to expand and create a stronger awareness to its cause for students outside of the LYTEhouse program.
Near the end of 2016, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced plans to shut down Peachtree and Pine, a major homeless shelter in Atlanta, sparking “A Night on Brown Street” into fruition. The initiative’s goal was to allow AUC students from across the three institutions to spend a night on Brown Street to raise awareness of Mayor Reed’s announcement.
“We thought ‘How about we sleep outside for a night?’ ” Rollins said. “Because it’s easy to figuratively put yourself in someone else’s shoes, but it’s another thing to actually do it, and experience how it feels to live in someone else’s life – even just for a night.”
Reflective of LYTEhouse’s inclusive and diverse e-board, the conglomerate desired that the one-night event, where students would simulate ‘shelter-lessness’ on Brown Street, be open for any students in the AUC to participate. Though the administration was initially on board with the idea, complications began to become more evident once administrators were notified that the club wanted all three institutions in the AUC to be in attendance. According to the administration, a large amount of students not affiliated with Morehouse spending the night on Morehouse’s campus presented a security and liability issue.
“It was never a negotiable thing with me,” Associate Dean of Student Life Kevin Booker said. “I told them to shut it down if it’s going to be all-AUC. I’m not supporting it. So that was clear from the door, I was not talking to them any longer, because they were not listening. After, they went behind my back and still marketed the event as such. This was around when they first brought the concept to me back in mid-January.”
After a continuous back-and-forth between LYTEhouse and the administration, on Feb. 21 members of LYTEhouse protested in several locations – including outside the president’s house and The Walter E. Massey Leadership Center.
“We were willing to not have the event at all if other schools were not allowed to be involved in it, or we would protest and call several news outlets and make it a public ordeal,” Morehouse sophomore political science major and Vice President Cameron Edge said. “We took it all the way.”
The back-and-forth created a conversation about respectability politics between the Morehouse administration and the student body. There was a belief among students that there was more to the narrative than just a “liability” issue. Students wanted support from their administration.
“That’s why we slept in front of leadership to protest this, and why some students protested in front of the Davidson House and not just for LYTEhouse, but to say students don’t feel supported at this institution, and that’s problematic,” Rollins said.
In addition, it was not just Dean Booker opposed to “A Night On Brown Street” with participation from all of the AUC. In a letter sent to students from Booker, Associate Vice President for Student Services and Dean of the College Maurice Washington, Vice President of Student Development Dr. Timothy Sams, Chief of Police Valerie Dalton and President John S. Wilson were all opposed to the event being AUC-wide.
“Do I believe that this was a good event? Absolutely,” Booker said. “Do I think it’s necessary? Absolutely, but is it necessary for all AUC schools to participate? No.”
After a week of dispute, protests and a wave of support ($3,762 raised in 26 days), the College’s legal counsel decided to permit LYTEhouse to host their event on March 24.
In under a year, LYTEhouse has undeniably displayed their bonafide good intentions. They were charismatic, authentic but most importantly, contemporary. The organization’s movement and influence on campus is growing at an exponential rate.
“I don’t think people understand how much time we actually put into this, so many nights we stayed up past 4 in the morning,” Rollins said. “My grades suffered, my relationship with other organizations suffered. But, at the end of the day, as 21st century men of Morehouse, this is what we do: we think big, we think great, we want to accomplish big things. We don’t want to sit around and allow issues and social ills to continuously happen and for us to not have a big part in fixing them.”