Black Student Centers (also called Black Culture Centers) emerged in the 1960s through the 1980s as Black student populations on predominantly White campuses grew significantly. They were born out of the same context that produced Black Studies; a context shaped by the civil rights movement, and the Black power movement.
These Black Student Centers initially focused primarily on social and cultural activities. They were and are safe places on campuses that can be culturally alienating and sometimes overtly and or covertly racially hostile. They were places where Pan African Nationalist political consciousness and intellectual thought were nourished. Since their formative years, they additionally become resource centers, places where students gain valuable internships, learn academic skills, connect to resources, and preparation for graduate school and the professional world.
Black Unity Center's Inception and Creation
The Black Unity Center started as one of sixth San Francisco State Black Student Union demands. These demands were developed Fall 2015, as part of the BSU’s efforts to change the organizations impact on Black student life and campus climate, and to address the lack of resources for Black students on campus. The board would use the training and advice offered by the Afrikan Black Coalition, a collective of California Black Student Unions, to construct the demands. In addition using the key teachings of Pan Africanism, Black Nationalism, and lessons learned from the book, The Black Campus Movement.
The board would first assess the campus climate and what key objectives should be sought so as to maximize the demands impact of Black student life. SFSU BSU saw that the campus lacked any central entity that was tasked with assessing, and tracking Black student life and resource allocation to Black students. Furthermore, there was a lack of administrative efforts to address Black students concerns. These observations were the basis for the BSU’s rationale in demanding a resource center. Other observations were a lack of Black student enrollment, retention, Black faculty outside of Africana Studies, training for non-Black faculty in racial sensitivity, and a Black residency floor. Once the demands were drafted they were presented to the entirety of the BSU board for review and approval. It was then taken to the BSU body for the final approval and endorsement.
The demands were released October 2015 as part of a BSU demonstration to highlight the Universities indifference to a nationwide movement to change University climate for Black students, sparked by Black students’ protests and demands at the University of Missouri addressing racial intolerance and lack of administrative actions addressing the issues . Following the demonstration, the BSU would arrange regular monthly meetings with President Wong to address each demand item. These meetings would continue into Spring 2016, simultaneously during the “Hunger Strikes” that occurred as a result of the defunding of the College of Ethnic Studies, the BSU coordinators were still meeting with the President and other University officials specifically about the BSU demands. The Black Unity Center would later be adopted into the, “Advance and Protect Ethnic Studies” list of demands as each member of the organization contributed to the collective demands. In Summer 2016, Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment management agreed to create a working committee for the center starting in Fall 2016.
The committee consisted of a BSU representative, ASI representative, Africana Studies chair, directors of Educational Opportunity Program, and lastly the VP of student affairs and her chief of staff. The committee would work for about eight months, meeting monthly and sometimes bi-weekly to research centers around the nation, campus climate and to examine all areas in which the campus was failing its Black student population. The notes from each meeting would be relayed to the BSU board and body for updates and to make sure that the center was going the right direction. In Spring 2017, the proposal was drafted and the BSU body voted on naming the space and initiative the Black Unity Center (BUC). In Summer 2017, the proposal was submitted and approved by the President’s cabinet. The Black Unity Center once an idea, and more so collective vision became a reality, its purpose to bring Black people and organizations into a united space to collectively move forward.
Finally, thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Black Student Union, Department of Africana Studies, College of Ethnic Studies the Black Student body, and the support of Student Affairs and Associated Students. A special thank you to all members of the Black Student Union board, past, present and future for their commitment to furthering Black student success.
Ghilamichael Andemeskel, External Vice coordinator 2015-2017
Hanna Wodaje, Senior Coordinator 2015-2016
Creation of Black Student Development Center/Building
- The Black Student Development Center would head the continued advancement of Black students on the campus, socially and academically. It would create a third party outside the Administration and BSU, with proper funds and staffing to continue the improvement of campus life for Black students.
- Center would be staffed by a combination of Black professional full time staff and student staff. Tasked would maintaining the stable growth black student population, retention, and graduation on campus. In addition, the center will host an array of events and provide resources to better the social and academic environment for black students.
- For the success of the center we seek the hiring of an additional full time Black admissions staff member and a retentions director specifically for Black students. These position would be within their respective university branches but would work in tandem with the Black Student Development center.