The Black Cultural Center being built on the Texas Tech campus is under way after it’s conception over a year ago. The vision for the center is focused on the representation and unity of black students on campus.
“When we began talking to students we really wanted to know what they wanted to see and get out of the space,” Carol Sumner, vice president of Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, said. “What we heard a lot was the word sanctuary, a space for gathering and celebrating the Black community.”
The creation of the Black Cultural Center is part of a three-phase plan set forward by the Black Student Association after a racially charged video went viral in December 2019. The BSA recognized a need for a space on campus for Black students to come together and for Black culture to be celebrated and has worked hard with the university to bring the center to life.
“We wanted to make sure that this space represented all of the Black experience such as LGBTQIA students, veterans, alumni- a place where people weren’t asking you to come in any other way than who you are,” Sumner said. “We saw a need for a space where Black culture and the Black experience could be recognized as part of the lived experience of students at Tech.”
Most of the plans for the center have already been finalized by the faculty, staff and students spearheading the project, Sumner said. The center will be located in the old development building by the Student Union Building and completely renovated as a space adaptable for events, lectures and seminars, study spaces and more while highlighting Black culture.
“We’ve talked about opening up the entryway to exhibit art, and we’ve worked with the Dean of Libraries to talk about bringing in African American literature and scholarship into a potential library space in the building for students and community members to easily access these works rather than searching through the some 2.1 million volumes in the campus library,” Sumner said.
The creation of the Black Cultural Center has been primarily student led, Sumner said. The BSA as well as many of the other Black student organizations and associations on campus have been working closely with the administration throughout the process.
A student advisory committee has been created in order to help run the center as well as represent the student needs on campus.
“The committee was handpicked by the BSA and has undergraduate and graduate students and members that have had some foothold in different endeavors whether that’s SGA, Greek life or anything else to have all different perspectives to advise for the center,” Naomi Yinta, a senior human development and family sciences major from Dallas and the BSA vice president, said.
The committee has reached out to all Black student organizations on the Tech campus to ensure the needs and wants for the center are being met and the students continue to be involved in the development process, Yinta said.
Everyone involved in the creation of the Black Cultural Center has high hopes for the possibilities it will bring to campus.
“There are so many possibilities with what we can do,” Yinta said. “We very much have an all-inclusive, all hands on deck, all ideas matter attitude. The administration and Dr. Sumner have been amazing with doing everything they can to bring what we’ve envisioned to life.”
A common misconception, Sumner said, is cultural centers are only for the culture they represent. The goal for the Black Cultural Center is to welcome all students and look at the Black experience at Tech and provide a deeper understanding through representation and education.
“I think it’s so important that we as Black students at Tech have a space to come together and for students of other races to learn about and celebrate our culture with us,” Andre Johnson, a junior psychology major from Houston, said.
A ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for the Black Cultural Center in August 2021, and the center will be fully finished in January 2022, Yinta said.
“I can’t wait for the center to open, I’m excited to see the vision come to life and to experience all of the things they have planned,” Johnson said. “It means a lot that Tech has been so dedicated to creating this center and that our voices have been heard.”