In 1968, USF’s Black Student Union put forth a set of demands. Over 50 years later, some of these have finally been met through the Black Achievement and Success Engagement program. The third and final component of the program, the Black Resource Center, held its grand opening on Feb. 22.
Michael Tadesse-Bell, who runs USF’s Retention and Persistence Programs, spoke at the opening event in Gleeson Library. “The [Black Resource Center] specifically seeks to provide a safe, supportive space for all black-identifying students, both undergraduate and graduate, to connect with each other and receive academic, spiritual, mental and emotional support services,” Tadesse-Bell said.
The resource center, known as the BRC, is open in the Gleeson Library Room 234 from 10 a.m. — 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. In an interview, Tadesse-Bell said, “It’s about building community as a whole. It’s really important that students have a space where they can gather, commune, [create] fellowship, study [and] plan.”
In order to provide helpful workshops and events for students, faculty of the resource center utilized student surveys to gauge the needs of current black-identifying students. “Three things were really high on that recent survey we did on what students want to see from the BRC: financial aid and securing scholarships, leadership development and mentorship. Those are going to be the top three things that start to happen this semester,” Tadesse-Bell said.
Tyrone Cannon, the University Library Dean, spoke of the library’s support for the BRC. “We are extremely proud to be part of the inaugural year of the Black Achievement and Success Engagement program,” he said. “It’s a significant achievement for the University and it offers the library a significant opportunity to collaborate with this very important initiative.”
The original idea of the Black Achievement and Success Engagement program, known as BASE, came when the 1968 Black Student Union (BSU) presented their demands to the University. These demands requested an office space, a department of black studies, more black faculty, as well as a greater effort to recruit black students, among other requests.
In 2016, BSU presented similar demands to the University, including a living learning community for black students, more scholarships and a resourceful space for support and community. Upon its opening, the BRC completed the launch of the BASE program.
Tadesse-Bell acknowledged those ideas which brought BASE to life. “Today would not be possible without the tireless efforts and fierce leadership of current and former black students,” he said. “Their sacrifices planted a seed that we now get a chance to see bear its fruit.”
Whitney Smith, a student who attended the grand opening, described her hopes for the BRC. “My vision is for it to be an open space for black people to be able to converse with each other and feel safe in the place,” Smith said.
As one of the managing student faculty at the resource center, first-year Angela Sivers has been working on the BRC project all semester. During the event, Sivers collected numbers and emails of potential volunteers who will oversee the resource center or provide mentorship. Sivers said, “We hope to create a space where students can come in and feel supported … a space run by the black community for the black community.”