Centennial Hall is now home to the new Black Cultural Center, a space established by the Division of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion thanks to the Black Student Alliance.
Tamara Johnson, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, attended multiple BSA meetings to learn about what the students were envisioning. The space opened on Nov. 2 to the UW-Eau Claire community.
The space is meant to allow black students to be themselves in an environment that encourages it, as explained by Avery Benson, a second-year creative writing student and the public relations chair for the BSA.
The BSA is part of the OMA, which houses different organizations for students of color. OMA provides a space for all students that are part of the organization and the BSA felt somewhat crowded. They advocated for a space of their own that would allow them to feel more comfortable where they could fully express themselves.
Inside, one wall is covered with a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. following his “I Have a Dream” speech at Washington, D.C. Students in the space have access to a fridge, kitchen space, tables, chairs, a giant bean bag and friends. Not only does the space offer an area to do homework, listen to music and have lunch, but it offers a strong sense of community.
The BSA “is advocating for students of color,” explained Benson. “It’s important for people of color to feel like they have a space they can flourish in.”
Whether it’s a place to study or a place to let loose, the space is emphasized as a area for black students to be themselves and feel comfortable.
Collis McCloud Jr., a fourth-year business management student and former president of both the BSA and Black Male Empowerment, said that this is a space where he and other members of the BSA can be themselves.
“While this space is physically significant, it is more significant emotionally,” McCloud said.
Benson said the room helps students relax, and it acts as an invitation to all students to join them. Benson said the “space is meant for everyone. I bring my Caucasian friends in here.”
The black student body on campus makes up a small population, only 1 percent, but it is steadily rising, Benson said. Benson explained that the current freshman class helped the black community grow immensely and next year, it might grow even more. When prospective black students tour the campus, they will now be invited to see the Black Cultural Center, which both Benson and McCloud hope will make them feel more comfortable at UWEC.
“The university is trying to move in the right direction,” McCloud said.
In future, the BSA would like to plan events at the cultural center to involve the community. Currently, the organization is focusing on fundraising to buy more furniture to make the room more physically comfortable.
Huling can be reached at [email protected].