Center for Black Culture
New Center for Black Culture Advances Diversity and Inclusion at Drexel
With a “Virtual Kickback” welcoming Black students, faculty, professional staff, alumni and friends in November 2020, Drexel University celebrated the opening of its Center for Black Culture. The Center serves as a critical resource for the University and neighboring communities to gain a greater understanding of the Black experience and support a welcoming and wholly inclusive campus environment.
The Center for Black Culture is housed in the first floor of the Rush Building at 33rd Street and Lancaster Walk, which has been renovated to accommodate events and programming for the Center as well as spaces for the Student Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the office of the Dean of Student Life and many student-led organizations.
“To me, the Center represents a manifestation of all the work that a lot of people have been doing here at Drexel, trying to push for anti-racism work and representation, doing diversity and inclusion initiatives,” says Tianna Williams, a third-year engineering technology major at the College of Engineering, president of Drexel’s Black Action Committee and vice president of the Drexel chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.
The Center seeks to increase knowledge, recognition and respect of the people, histories and cultures of the African diaspora and its many contributions to the world, and to serve as a hub of information and activity.
“Launching our new Center for Black Culture is an important milestone for Drexel," said President John Fry. "At a moment when our nation is having a long overdue reckoning with the enduring inequality rooted in a long history of racial injustice, it's critical for our own campus community to have a welcoming space for greater understanding, conversation, creativity, and active engagement. This Center is one of many substantive steps we are taking to build a more diverse and inclusive Drexel, and we look forward to the unique role it will be able play in elevating and celebrating the extraordinary impact of Black culture in our campus and our city, our nation and the world."
We’re excited to provide a destination that creates a sense of belonging for Black students, faculty and professional staff, and a resource for the whole Drexel community to develop a more comprehensive view of race.
The Center’s director, Shardé Johnson, has worked in multiple offices within Student Life since 2009. She is developing year-round events and programming, with support from a volunteer advisory board that currently consists of 14 students, alumni, faculty and professional staff. In collaboration with Subir Sahu, senior vice president for Student Success, Johnson is leading a steering committee to develop the Center’s mission and ensure that it serves as a home to all Drexel students, faculty and professional staff, while increasing knowledge of the people, histories and culture of the African diaspora and its many contributions to the world.
“We’re excited to provide a destination that creates a sense of belonging for Black students, faculty and professional staff, and a resource for the whole Drexel community to develop a more comprehensive view of race,” says Johnson. “The Center will also work in collaboration with Drexel Student Life and the University’s Lindy Center for Civic Engagement on a variety of community-engaged activities. It is our hope that the Center will be instrumental in developing meaningful relationships with the local community.”
“The Center already feels like another home,” says Jadelyn Watkins, a fourth-year music industry major at the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and president of Drexel’s Black Student Union. “It means a lot to me that Drexel wanted to provide this space for us. I think it’s really needed here.”
Javion Smith-Sanders, a third-year software engineering major at the College of Computing & Informatics and president of the Drexel chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, adds: “I’m excited about having a safe space where students can talk about issues of race. It’s going to mean so much for students here at Drexel.”
Donors can have significant impact on the Center’s reach, influence and growth by supporting its broad range of events and programming. “At the moment, the Center is an office of one,” says Johnson. “With significant help from the advisory board, I am working with campus partners to provide a robust offering of programs for the winter term, including MLK Day of Service on January 18th and Black History Month in February.”
Part of this story is adapted from an article that originally appeared in DrexelNow
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