Before I got shipped back home my freshman year, I loved going to the Black Resource Center (BRC). Nearly four years and a global pandemic later, the BRC maintains the same cozy, welcoming spirit. Last Friday, I was back in the definition of a safe space, and yet I had the same sense of guilt I imagine one does when they’ve neglected confession.
Students have made the space theirs — adorned with throw pillows, culturally thematic board games, and a polaroid camera, the Center looks like it’s settled into itself. I may have missed the Center’s evolution, but I was willing to make up for lost time. Using my honed journalistic skills — aka Instagram — I was determined to find out what happened to the community I had mistakenly stepped away from. I don’t know why I felt so compelled to write about the BRC. I think it is the closest I could come to an apology for my absence.
Tucked away in a second floor corner of Gleeson Library, the Center has books, pamphlets, and programming all with the goal of advising and empowering USF’s Black community. While the resources in the Center are phenomenally curated, I wanted to learn more about the personal stories scattered around the Center.
At all hours of the day, students can be found celebrating the new semester, studying, and most importantly being with one another. This communal spirit has even inspired staff. Black Achievement Success and Engagement (BASE) Program Director LaShirine Howard described how the Center has elevated her interactions with the community. “It’s always a joy to have a hub where we can actually go and engage. We can take our work hats off for a bit and just have some additional convos to get to know what’s going on around campus.”
While I would normally embrace the rare experience of having the BRC all to myself, I doubted it would make an interesting story for my editor. So there I was, after a late afternoon shift, frantically pacing the BRC until I saw the Polaroids. Taped carefully to a wall of the BRC, they displayed a series of Black — presumably — USF students in formal attire.
I reached out to the most familiar face, D’Vine Riley, a friend and former Black Student Union President. She recalled the picture with her patented joy, declaring this photo as proof of the best dinner her administration hosted. D’Vine explained that she and her cabinet lived in the moment but rarely took photos to commemorate their present. The photographs served as a “unique way to capture the evening.”
D’Vine’s photograph was taken at the Black Student Union Cultural Dinner — not necessarily a BRC event, but all Black events on campus have a tendency to spill into the Center. “The BRC allows folks to be protected and also just to create a sheltered community for collaboration, for new friends, or new interactions. And just the beautiful energy that Black people provided is like none other.” I wanted to learn about the Polaroids radiating with the beautiful energy D’Vine described, so I decided to try to find who was responsible for the project and understand why these pictures decorate the Black Resource Center.
The photographer behind the photos, third-year economics major Mariah Jackson, is currently studying abroad in Greece but still took time out of her schedule to contact me about the context of her photos. This set of Polaroids are dear to Jackson as they commemorate her service as BSU’s Director of Finance.
Howard described the Center as a “time capsule.” She noted that some of the decorations were remnants of Vizuri Kabisa, the Black graduation ceremony, or tokens from the Marshall-Riley Living Learning Community immersion trips. Notable Black figures and scholars who visited USF are also memorialized in the Center through their writings. “It’s actually kind of cute,” Howard gushed. “We hope and encourage students to leave something behind in it.”
Jackson described the BRC as an oasis from the “campus hustle.” She said the BRC is “a space where we as Black students can just be. We can freely and openly be our beautiful, intelligent, creative, and amazing selves without dealing with judgment and opinions of those who don’t understand our experience of being Black at a PWI [predominately white institution] and being Black in the world.”
Even though I missed a semester of activities, I got my soon-to-be-weekly dose of BRC peace. After a game of “BLeBrity” — a mobile app similar to Ellen DeGeneres’ “Heads Up” but with categories and answers rooted in Black culture — I found myself alone in the BRC, yet again reflecting on my new column (this one, you’ve been baited). I decided to come to USF because of the BASE program. I had never flown on a plane before, I hadn’t been adventurous enough to spend summers with camp counselors or relatives. I stumbled into the BRC at 17 years old searching for community, I’ve done it again at 21 and this time I found something special.
For updates about the Black Resource Center follow @baseusfca on Instagram.