Oregon State University’s Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center has a new home, and more than 250 attendees celebrated the grand opening ceremonies on April 15. The center is located at 100 S.W. Memorial Way (corner of Memorial Way and Monroe).
The BCC, as it is known, is one of four OSU cultural centers that has a brand new space. The Native American Longhouse moved into a new building in 2013, and the Cesar Chavez Centro Cultural opened the doors of their new building in 2014. The new Asian & Pacific Cultural Center also just opened and will be holding their grand opening April 29. Construction of the four cultural centers was funded with a combination of private gifts and university funds. Groundbreaking for the BCC took place in June, 2013.
While boxes were still being unpacked and art stood propped against scattered pieces of furniture, the brand new building housing the BCC already felt warm and inviting. Osenat Quadri settled onto a couch in the rotunda with a smile, pointing to a wall across from her.
“I can’t wait until they set up the t.v.,” she said, making herself at home. Which is exactly what architects of the new center intended.
Quadri is one of the BCC’s peer facilitators, and is a pre-nursing student at OSU. She and fellow peer facilitator Justeen Quartey, a freshman in public health management and policy, were two of the students who provided input as Jones & Jones Architecture of Seattle designed the new cultural center building.
“We wanted it to be a home away from home,” Quartey said. “We wanted warm colors, and paintings and artwork that were relatable.”
The new building is located in the same spot as the former BCC, which was a converted house with plenty of charm but limited programming space. Bigger events at the old BCC usually involved people crammed together in small rooms and narrow halls.
Now expansive meeting rooms, study spaces and a large kitchen provide plenty of space for all kinds of activities.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be a house,” Quadri said of the new space, “but we wanted it to be as comfortable as possible.”
Their hopes were realized, she said. “It’s pretty dope,” she said, laughing.
“It was amazing watching us have input and seeing it turn out how it did,” Quartey agreed.
In addition to programming, study space and free resources like printing and computer access, the center provides peer tutors to OSU students thanks to a grant.
The Meyer Memorial Trust grant has given Educational Opportunities Program (EOP) the opportunity to provide academic mentors, tutors, and study tables in all cultural centers including the BCC. Academic mentors are peer educators who help students with academics, to connect to resources, and partner with the Academic Success Center’s Learning Campaign.
During construction, the BCC was temporarily housed in Snell Hall, which has had its drawbacks, including crowded rooms and an elevator that shut down at 5 p.m. each day, limiting student access to the resources. It was also hidden from public view. With the spacious new center, staff hopes that more students will discover the center, and they’ll be able to do more collaborative activities with other centers and programs.
Quartey said because the center faces Monroe Avenue, there’s also the chance for the BCC to get more involved with Corvallis at large.
“We’re here on the outskirts of campus which gives us more access to the community,” she said.
Quadri said having a black cultural center is important to student retention on campus.
“We represent about 1 percent of the student body,” she said of black students. “I feel like this center can build that sense of community students need. When they don’t feel that they have that community, they leave.”
The original Black Student Union Cultural Center was formed on campus in 1975, and later renamed the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center after the first director of the Educational Opportunities Program, who helped increase recruitment and retention of black students at OSU.
Special guest speaker at the open house is Jaymes Winters, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Blue Leopard Capital, a Portland-based private equity and fund specializing in middle market acquisitions, mergers and investment banking. Prior to founding Blue Leopard, he was the founder and CEO of United Energy Inc., which for seven consecutive years was one of the largest African American business on the west coast with revenues of nearly $100 million and 1,000 employees.
Winters has a previously served on a number of local charitable boards, including the Urban league of Portland, The Austin School of Entrepreneurship at Oregon State University, Self Enhancement Inc. and the Portland Art Museum.
To learn more about the BCC: http://oregonstate.edu/bcc/