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UC Berkeley Black Students Fought for a Resource Center and WON!

Jamal Muhammad March 7, 2017

Something that every black student needs.

Berkeley, California — Many faculty members and African-American students at the University of California, Berkeley were joyed to see that they can call a place their “own.” Last Tuesday, the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center, a learning community space for black students on campus, had its opening ceremony and a lot of people from the neighborhood went to the event to support.

“I will forever have pride in my heart for what we accomplished as a community,” said Blake Simons.

In 2014, during the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests in Ferguson, when the students made it relevant that they do not have an open safe space where they can connect with their peers.

Eniola Abioye during the #BlackAtCal protest on Cal Day. Photo Credit: Daily Cal

So they went to the administration office to convince them that this can assist black students’ graduation rates and encourage more African-Americans to attend UC Berkeley. In result, it can increase their population because it is currently at three percent.

“The center is dedicated to the retention and academic/professional matriculation of Black identified students, but anyone can use it,” said Mr. Simons in an interview. 

For two years, the Afrikan Black Coalition, Black Collective, and Cal’s Black Student Union organized countless amounts of demonstrations to put pressure on the faculty to move forward with their proposal. After all the negotiating, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks approved the funds to build the resource center.

The African-American Student Development (AASD) office took the operation head on and hired former Cal student and community leader Blake Simons.

Furthermore, the center has on and off campus resources at the black community disposal, and it includes a lounge area, library, study rooms, kitchen, and counselors. As one of the leaders in this operation, Mr. Simons wants to assure black students that this is an excellent opportunity for growth and self-realization.

“Being one of the founders of the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center is definitely one of the most rewarding experiences that I’ve had in my life — as I know the sacrifices that I made were in honor of my ancestors,” said Mr. Simons.

According to Berkeleyside, the university allocated $83,000 in funding to renovate a few rooms in the Hearst Annex building, which led to freshly painted walls, Pan-African decorations, and receiving brand new furniture.

Fifty years ago, civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer spoke before the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City—and her speech became one of the most pivotal moments of the Civil Rights Movement. Photo Credit: The Daily Beast

Another interesting fact, Mr. Simons named the resource center after civil rights leader Fannie Lou Townsend who organized Mississippi’s Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and also was the vice-chairwoman of Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

“I am excited that students will have what I didn’t, which is a dedicated center that serves Black students’ socio-emotional needs, retention, professional development, and academic success,” said Mr. Simons.

Now the AASD is planning partnerships with other organization that assists black students during their college career.


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