It took years of hard work and persistence, but the Black Cultural Center—designed as a transformative space for research, community building and support services for black members of the U campus community—is now a reality.
An official celebration and grand opening for the center will take place Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The center is located at 95 Fort Douglas Blvd., Salt Lake City, Utah, 84113.
Visitors will be able to meet center staff, enjoy food prepared by Taste of Louisiana and get to know resources available for black campus community members as well as from partners including the American Indian Resource Center, Center for Ethnic Student Affairs CESA and the LGBT Resource Center.
The Black Cultural Center is the result of advocacy by the U’s Black Student Union; Black Graduate Student Association; African American Doctoral Scholars Initiative, and the Black Faculty and Staff Association.
Meligha Garfield has been selected as the center’s inaugural director of the center, which held a “soft” opening last February. JaTara Smith is the center’s new coordinator and serves as coordinator of the African American Doctoral Scholars Initiative.
The center’s mission is to make it easier for black students to connect with black faculty and staff for mentorship, academic engagement, leadership development and to nurture a shared cultural identity. It will advocate for students, faculty and staff through black-centered programming, culturally affirming educational initiatives and retention strategies. The center also will work to counteract persistent campuswide and global anti-blackness.
“I hope the center will become, in the future, more of a gateway and cultural oasis of sorts, a place for students, faculty and staff to explore blackness in Utah and in the world,” Garfield said. “We want it to be an academic and social place, but also a place of laughter and solidarity and a safe space that everyone can retreat to. There are a lot of people who have come to the state of Utah from other places and we want them to find that the University of Utah is a second home.”
Research shows having dedicated spaces to support under-represented students can help them succeed on historically white college and university campuses and are also key to attracting and retaining students, staff and faculty. Centers provide community, connection and support, while also serving as cultural hubs that help educate an entire campus.
“When looking at the history of black cultural centers throughout the nation, they have emerged from the efforts of Black students and with the pivotal help of faculty and staff, to make campus environments conducive to their own survival, learning and development,” said Barbara Kufiadan, now a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, at last February’s event.