Black Cultural Center prepares for transitions
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 01:02
Oregon State University cultural centers provide opportunities for individuals of diverse backgrounds to mingle and learn more about each other. For over 30 years, the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center has played a large role in this endeavor.
The BCC seeks to improve the retention rates of black students, provide a safe place for all students, develop and promote events where diversity is valued and the Corvallis community can discover black heritage.
“The BCC isn’t exclusive to black students,” said Earlean Wilson Huey, a member of Intercultural Student Services. “Anybody can use the center. People can come here to use any of our resources and to learn about black culture and history. It’s open and welcome to all.”
The BCC is hosting several events in spirit of Black History Month. Events range from a chocolate truffle workshop, to a discussion on how the Black community is portrayed in the media and a seminar on the history of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Eleven events total were planned for this month, the largest of them being the Black History Month Dinner on Feb. 26, 7-9 p.m. in the Memorial Union ballroom.
“There’s lots of food and great performances by other groups on campus,” said Dominique Austin, graduate teaching assistant for the BCC. “It is a time for everyone to come together and to celebrate Black History Month.”
Along with Black History Month, another task for the BCC is building a new center significantly larger and better than the current one. The BCC plans to sell the old building and have it moved off the building site it’s on. Then the new building will be constructed where the BCC now stands.
“The new building will be great,” said Yohana Abraham, a junior in Public Health. “We’ll take advantage of the larger facility, such as having larger events hosted there, such as pre-Kwanza and Black History Month Dinner.”
With the construction preparing to commence, the BCC has moved out of the old building on Monroe Street and are temporarily relocated in Snell 427.
“Unfortunately our attendance has fallen with the move,” Austin said. “To fix this, we’re really trying to make it a point that we’ve been temporarily relocated until the new building is complete.”
The BCC’s old building has officially been on campus since 1975. Discrimination against black students on campus in the late 1960s prompted the Black Student Union to protest and boycott against the university. In 1969, 25 black students actually withdrew because of discriminatory acts, and in response to this and other discrimination, the Office of Minority Affairs was created in 1970.
Five years later, the BCC, formerly known as the Black Student Union Cultural Center, was opened. The BCC was renamed after Lonnie B. Harris, the first director of the Educational Opportunities Program, which played an important role in the eventual founding of the BCC.
BCC members aim to increase the retention rates of black students, which is currently at 38 percent. To help with this, every Tuesday night the center makes study tables available in the library from 7-9 p.m. Every Thursday, the center hosts a social night in the BCC from 7-9 p.m. to help make black students feel involved.
“We’re here to support black students, provide a place for anyone to hang out regardless of who they are and spread cultural awareness,” Abraham said. “That’s how we help the campus community.”
Ryan Dawes, news reporter