Oregon State celebrates past, future of Black Cultural Center


CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center at Oregon State University is getting ready for a new home.

Following closely on the heels of the Eena Haws Native American Longhouse, which had a grand opening in May, the current BCC, as it is known, is being replaced with a new building.

Construction starts in late summer, with completion expected by June 2014. A celebration of the center’s history and future took place today, followed by historic tours of the original building.

President Ed Ray spoke at the ceremony about how important it was to have a physical home for cultural groups on campus, and how the new centers were part of the university’s ongoing commitment to creating a more diverse OSU.

“This new building will help the university – and the wider community – to continue to build understanding and respect and knowledge,” he said. “That must be a goal for each of us. In completing each cultural center, we take a step forward in completing ourselves.”

The current building, which is part of the OSU Historic District, will be relocated this summer to a community garden at 30th and Orchard streets. A new building, designed by Seattle architectural firm Jones & Jones, will be built at the original location, while the BCC has temporary headquarters in Snell Hall.

The building will have a unique circular lounge, and exterior brick patterns based on Yoruba textiles known as Aso Oke, from Nigeria.

“The Gathering hall form is inspired by the Yoruba Toguna (Great Mother Shelter),” said Victoria Nguyen of the Office of Diversity Development.

Because student input has been crucial to the process, and because cultural centers are a visible demonstration of the university’s commitment to a diverse student body, Nguyen said buildings like the BCC are a great way to make campus more welcoming.

“Students will feel that they matter at OSU with just the resources and commitment from the institution in creating this space,” she said.

Dominique Austin, a graduate teaching assistant working with the BCC, said the center provides a sense of home and connection upon arriving at OSU.

“After becoming the graduate teaching assistant, I began to grow relationships and gain that sense of family with the BCC staff and community,” Austin said. “I am excited for the endless possibilities and opportunities not only for the black community on campus, but for Oregon State as a whole.

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, which originally helped increase recruitment and retention of black students at OSU.

The new building will provide entrances both to Memorial Place, to the east of the current building, and Monroe Avenue, to the north. The parking lot immediately next to the current building will be demolished.

The new building will be placed in anticipation of future development of the area, which could include an open quad to the south of the building (toward the Student Health Center), and possibly a new laboratory and office building for the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences to the west.

Construction on the new Centro Cultural Cesar Chavez begins this week and completion is estimated by December. The Asian & Pacific Cultural Center is also slated for a new home in the near future.

Editor’s Note: A photo set of today’s event: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oregonstateuniversity/sets/72157633956608208/

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About Oregon State University:  As one of only two universities in the nation designated as a land, sea, space and sun grant, Oregon State serves Oregon and the world by working on today’s most pressing issues. Our more than 31,000 students come from across the globe, and our programs operate in every Oregon county. Oregon State receives more research funding than all of the state’s comprehensive public universities combined. At our campuses in Corvallis, Bend and Newport, and through our award-winning Ecampus, we excel at shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders.