Dedication of the UW Black Culture Center
A Home of Our Own
By Kynala Phillips
The Black Cultural Center (BCC) Dedication and Libation Ceremony, held on Feb. 28th,
2017, was an unforgettable night for many Black students on campus. The BCC, which
is the university's third attempt to establishing a center for Black students, is set to
open in May. However, its soft opening was held during Black History Month to give
students, staff and faculty an opportunity to welcome the space with libations. The
program included speakers representing the Black History Month Planning Committee,
the Division of Diversity Equity and Educational Achievement, the BCC’s advisory board
and much more. The program also served as an opportunity for students, staff and
faculty to come to the new space, give thanks to the past, reflect on the present and
make plans for the future. The event was spearheaded by Karla Foster, who is the
interim programming coordinator for the Multicultural Student Center and the African
American Pathways community and campus liaison. Foster is also tasked with the
foundational groundwork for the BCC and leading its advisory board.
The night opened up with libations led by Hazel Symonette and Marquise Mays. Both
reflected that the center is on Ho-Chunk land and thanked the ancestors whose
shoulders they are currently standing on. Symonette and Mays were followed by the
University Gospel Choir’s Praise Team, who sang the Black National Anthem (Lift Every
Voice and Sing).
Patrick Sims, the chief diversity vice-provost, opened up his remarks with a song and
then talked about his excitement. Next Afro-Am Professor Sandra Adell gave a very
“Students, individually and united within groups and organizations such as the Blindside, the Wisconsin Black Student Union, the UW Black Out
Movement, and the United Council of UW Students, to name a few have fought for this space, and others and the university have responded,”
Foster said. “As we push to make this school a more inclusive space for all, this event serves as an opportunity to reflect on the past and
thank those who came before us, while also looking ahead at what more needs to be done. This Black Cultural Center is a result of student
voice, activism and resiliency.”
The event closed with another selection from the University Gospel Choir’s Praise Team and some lovely appetizers from Melly Mell’s. It was a
beautiful ceremony that honored the past and prepared UW-Madison’s Black community of the future. It will be amazing to finally have center
dedicated to safety and comfortability of UW’s Black students.
insightful lesson on the past two Black Cultural Centers on campus and the protest that led to
their existence. Her remarks gave the audience a lot of clarity on the history of
Black cultural centers and the Black community on UW-Madison’s campus.
Two student speakers also shared their sentiments about the space. Juniors Nia Scott and
Breanna Taylor spoke to their experiences on campus and their expectations of the space and
the university. Scott critiqued the university, its whiteness and its fear of inclusivity. Taylor
explained the overwhelming importance of the space and why it’s
necessary on this campus.
“The Black Cultural Center here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a home that we’ve
made in this house,” Taylor said. “It is a testimony spoken from the mouths of many who endured
tragedy after tragedy. We mustn’t be outdone by the incompetent who refuse to acknowledge our
presence, but we must be that beacon of hope for ourselves.”
Finally, Karla Foster, who is not only in charge of the groundwork of the Black Cultural Center, but
is also behind the university’s Black History Month festivities, gave her closing thoughts.