A year after a rash of racist incidents and student protests spread across its campus, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is opening a center for black students Wednesday in an effort to show better support for the black community on campus.
The Black Cultural Center will be located inside UW-Madison’s Red Gym, which is already home to other multicultural student organizations, and its official opening will be a day of discussions and performances, the Wisconsin State Journal reports. The center will be open to all students.
The center will occupy a first-floor space that was to house a package-pickup location for Amazon.com, and university officials have said that building the center shows they are committed to improving the experience of black students after last year’s incidents; having a dedicated space on campus for black students was one of the goals of student activists involved in the protests last year.
Harvey Long is a doctoral student studying the history of black students at UW-Madison dating to the 1870s, and he helped plan the new center. He told the State Journal that black students at the predominantly white university have long gathered in informal places to “rejuvenate and recharge,” and the new center makes those spaces officially a part of UW-Madison.
“It matters a lot for students—but specifically black students in spaces where we haven’t always been welcome—to have a community and a space where you can be yourself,” Long said. “I think it’s vital.”
As part of Wednesday’s opening events, Long will give a presentation on his research, and he noted that a similar center for black students opened at UW-Madison in 1968, but it closed five years later when officials consolidated spaces for minority students.
He told the State Journal that it will be important for UW-Madison’s administrators to maintain their support for the center and the students it serves.
“The institution must continue to be aware of and fight for students of color,” Long said. “It’s a step in the right direction, and it’s a concrete example of what happens when students are engaged in activism.”
Read more at the Wisconsin State Journal.