By Jonathan Sperling
She went from the crimson and gold of Townsend Harris High School to The Crimson at Harvard University.
Forest Hills native Kristine E. Guillaume has broken barriers by becoming the first black woman to lead the prestigious Harvard Crimson, the student-run newspaper at Harvard University.
Guillaume, 20, was elected president of the new “146th Guard” of The Crimson, the paper’s current President Derek G. Xiao announced on Nov. 12. Guillaume will be the third black student to serve as the paper’s president in its 145-year history.
At a particularly crucial time in The Crimson's history, Kristine presents a compelling vision for how the paper can continue to fulfill its core mission of covering and informing Harvard and its affiliates. On the content side, her emphasis on building up the The Crimson's digital storytelling capabilities will position the organization to continue to engage its readers,” Xiao told the Eagle. “On the business side, her plan to scale the organization's alternative revenue streams promises to secure The Crimson greater financial stability. And Kristine's previous work with the Diversity and Inclusivity Committee has demonstrated her commitment and dedication to ensuring our editors — regardless of identity or background — find a home at 14 Plympton St.”
Guillaume, who was born to a Chinese mother and Haitian father, told The New York Times, that she plans to turn the paper toward a more diverse and digital future, especially in “today’s climate.”
“If my being elected to the Crimson presidency as the first black woman affirms anyone’s sense of belonging at Harvard, then that will continue to affirm the work that I’m doing,” Guillaume told The Times.
“It’s your job, no matter what stage of leadership, to make sure you are imparting knowledge to younger writers, but also reporting on things especially pertinent in today’s climate with cultural sensitivity,” she added.
But for Guillaume, a dual major in African American Studies and History and Literature, her passion for writing was partly cultivated right in the heart of Queens as a student at Townsend Harris High School. There, she worked for the school’s literary magazine, The Phoenix, first as its junior editor and later as its senior editor. She graduated in 2016.
Yelena Dzhanova, also a Forest Hills native who attended Townsend Harris from 2011-2015, trained Guillaume before handing over the reins of The Phoenix.
“Kristine was evidently passionate about The Phoenix. She was a huge nerd — loved all things Harry Potter, Proust, and tea — and she was good at it. She demonstrated a desire to transform The Phoenix into more than just a magazine,” Dzhanova told the Eagle, adding that Guillaume “always had immense energy and infectious positivity that showed both while I was there and after I left. I'm proud of and happy for her.”
During her time at The Crimson, Guillaume has served as one of the paper’s “Central Administration reporters,” a role that has enabled her to interview two successive Harvard University presidents — Drew G. Faust and Lawrence S. Bacow. She also worked on the reporting team that covered Harvard’s 2018 search for president.
Guillaume serves on The Crimson’s Diversity and Inclusivity committee, which has worked to make the paper more diverse. Approximately 15 percent of Harvard’s class of 2022 is African-American, nearly 23 percent are Asian and 12.3 percent are Latino or Hispanic, according to the university’s latest statistics.
Her latest article, penned on Oct. 31, pertains to the lawsuit filed against Harvard by Students for Fair Admissions, an anti-affirmative action alleging that Harvard openly discriminated against deserving Asian-American students.
Her term as president officially begins on Jan. 1, 2019.
Guillaume joins Jin Kyu Park as one of the latest Queens natives to earn a prestigious position while a student at Harvard. Park, a Flushing native, recently became the first ever undocumented American immigrant — covered under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — selected for the Rhodes scholarship, the Eagle reported on Nov.20.