OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Block Party celebrates new home of the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center

10/09/2014

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A “block party” celebration of the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center, which is currently under construction, will take place Oct. 17 at the center, located at 2320 S.W. Monroe Ave.

The event will be from 5:15-7 p.m., as a street party featuring a DJ, bouncy inflatables that can accommodate adults, and free food including pulled pork sandwiches. Those planning to attend are encouraged to RSVP by emailing events@oregonstate.edu or by calling 541-737-4717.

“This is one of many great events we’re putting on this year at the BCC,” said Dominique Austin, assistant director for the center. Austin said the block party ties in with the center’s theme for this year, which is creating a culture of excellence within the black community at OSU and a welcoming atmosphere for all students.

“The BCC is not only for black students, but is open to the whole OSU community,” Austin said. “All students are welcome. You don’t have to identify as black. We have a very diverse staff at the BCC, and we’re committed to recruiting and retaining students from all backgrounds.”

The BCC, as it is known, is one of four OSU cultural centers getting a new home to replace its former aging building. 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 and Pacific Cultural Center is currently under construction. The four cultural centers are being funded with a combination of private gifts and university funds. 

Groundbreaking for the BCC took place in June, 2013, but construction was delayed after workers found that groundwater and soil about eight feet below grade had been contaminated by fuel from an unknown source, possibly many years ago.

Due to health concerns from the contaminated soil and groundwater, OSU had to hire a geotechnical firm from Portland to establish the extent of the contamination and then do a risk analysis. The result was evidence that the contamination was spread over a significant area of the construction site, but that the levels were medium low, meaning it was safe to proceed with construction as long as a vapor barrier was placed under the foundation, protecting all occupants from any contamination or risk.

The extra steps involved in addressing the contamination issue slowed the construction, but project manager Larrie Easterly says the new building will be ready to move into by spring break, 2015, within the same approximate completion time as the Native American Longhouse, which took two years from groundbreaking to completion. The Centro Cultural Cesar Chavez broke ground in November, 2012, and was completed in April, 2014.

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.

The new building will provide entrances both to Memorial Place, to the east of the current building, and Monroe Avenue to the north. The building, designed by Seattle architectural firm Jones & Jones, will have a unique circular lounge, and exterior brick patterns based on Yoruba textiles known as Aso Oke, from Nigeria.

The BCC is temporarily being housed in Snell Hall, Room 427. Programming is continuing there and BCC students benefit from a recent grant that is helping students at all OSU cultural centers.

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.   

The current BCC space is dedicated for study tables Mondays through Thursdays from 2-5 p.m.  Math and chemistry tutoring is provided on Mondays from 3-6 p.m.  The center also is collaborating with the Writing Center to providing writing assistants in the BCC on Thursdays from 2-5 p.m. That work will continue once the BCC staff and students move into their new home during spring break, 2015.

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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.