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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Black Cultural Center will open to ‘celebrate’ end of semester

The grand opening of the Black Cultural Center will take place on an undetermined date in either late April or early May, according to university officials. The space will still be dedicated with a ceremony at the conclusion of Black History Month.

Interim Director of the Multicultural Student Center Gabe Javier said room 106 in the Red Gym, the future home of the BCC, will take more time to complete in order to match the image for the center.

The space cannot be operated as an office per building code until fire alarms and other requirements are installed. Javier said it may be usable before the official opening date.

“We thought of the end of the semester for the Grand Opening because we knew that all the things that will make the BCC feel like a cultural center—pieces of art, artifacts, wall hangings, and other items tied to black culture at UW—will take some time to gather, curate, and assemble,” Javier said in an email. “The end of the semester is also a great time to celebrate with commencement and other ceremonies, so we wanted to capture that excitement.”

The BCC will have two spaces—a classroom and a lounge—that will mimic the setup of the MSC office. Javier said it will be managed the same way as the MSC in that the spaces will be reservable and capable of hosting classes and discussions, as well as community events.

The BCC will be a stand-alone office, but will be housed under the MSC and the Division of Student Life. Dean of Students Lori Berquam said she looks forward to this space where black students can find community and offers programs that will welcome all.

“[The BCC] continues [UW-Madison’s] commitment to creating a community that is inviting and welcoming and provides a space for our students of color, particularly our black students and our African-American students, to come together in community in a space where they can both feel supported and be successful here,” Berquam said.

Both Berquam and Javier said the BCC came about after requests from students last spring when the #TheRealUW movement began.

“Our students have indicated they want to have a space that they can call their own, that is reflective of who they are and their journey, their struggles,” Berquam said. “It was really something that we listened to our students about, to give them what they need to be successful here.”

Associated Students of Madison Chair of Equity and Inclusion Committee Ali Khan said he also believes the BCC will have a positive impact on both black students and non-black students who will have the opportunity to learn about black culture and history and history. However, he hopes the university does not stop improving campus climate for black students with the addition of the space.

“I’m both excited that UW-Madison will finally have a BCC but … I hope UW administration does not feel like by creating a BCC, they have an excuse to continue ignoring Black students and other students of color,” Khan said.

The dedication ceremony for the BCC will occur Feb. 28, according to Javier. The event will include student and faculty speakers, and attendees will have the opportunity to see graphic images of what the BCC will look like and the construction to date.

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Both Berquam and Javier said they look forward to what the space will bring to UW-Madison.

“There continues to be studies that show cultural centers … are really important to the community it serves, and also really important to the campus climate,” Javier said. “There's a cumulative positive effect on campus.”

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