Nesbitt daughter on new center: “We’re ready”

There are currently five proposed building plans on display at the Bruce D. Nesbitt African-American Cultural Center. Ideas for new features range from libraries to a radio station.

By Aaron Navarro

The allocation of $4.9 million in funding from institutional fees will help the center undergo construction, according to Gigi Secuban, associate vice chancellor for student affairs.

Operations for the center, known as BNAACC, will move from the temporary location in the Campus Recreation Outdoor Center to a new, undecided location in 2018. Secuban said the Board of Trustees approved the project, but the center is still looking at location sites and buildings.

“It is still a process to determine that, but the board has basically approved the money for it so we’re just waiting on the process,” Secuban said.

Along with the nearly five million dollars to start construction, Secuban said donations and the student cultural fee will contribute to operations and maintenance funding.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Five potential building plans currently remain up for selection; one of the locations is located where the original center stood on the corner of Matthews Avenue and Nevada Street.

Valeri Nesbitt-Howard, office support worker at BNAACC, said she wants students, faculty and the community to be very involved with determining what the new center will look like, such as a library, award room and radio station.

“We’re actually letting people vote. We want to get some ideas and feedback so we can incorporate different things into the building,” Howard said. “We open the door for students, we just want input and feedback from all walks, and then we’ll get closer to determining (a center).”

The original BNAACC was shut down after 20 years of operation due to complaints from students about the extreme deterioration and conditions of the building.

Aja Beckham, junior and co-founder of the #BeingBlackatIllinois student group, recalls one story about how a meeting in the house was one of the biggest signs they needed a change of scenery.

“There was a dead squirrel on the roof that was rotting to the point where maggots were forming in the ceiling,” Beckham said. “One time the now-former president of the student body and vice president were having a meeting in a room, and the maggots began falling from the ceiling onto the desk. We definitely want a space where squirrels aren’t rotting on the roof and maggots aren’t on the ceiling.”

Howard said the building was “deplorable” and “beyond recognition” at the end of its run. For the past two years the center has been on Gregory St., west of the Student Dining and Residential Programs Center. Beckham and Howard said the current location has its benefits and drawbacks. Beckham used to go to the old BNAACC everyday. When it used to be near the Main Quad; BNAACC was “the first place I would go to,” she said.

Now that the center is in a temporary location, Beckham said she’s been to the center only six times in the past two years.

“I don’t really wanna go to the location that it is at now,” Beckham said. “With the new space now it is a little less convenient. I’m a little upset that for two years we’ve been in that space and it doesn’t feel homey.”

Howard said though she has seen a slight decrease in traffic, the new location allows for a new crowd.

“It’s like living in a certain part of town, say you live on this side, then you accompany these people. But if you live on another side, there’s still people that live there,” Howard said. “Now we just are able to reach another crowd that we were not reaching before… we’re reaching a whole new audience. For me it is very beneficial, we want to reach everyone.”

As the daughter of Bruce D. Nesbitt, whom the BNAACC is named after, Howard said she feels an especially strong sense of responsibility to the project.

“I am so passionate about seeing to it that it gets done. I feel like one of the students, I feel from their end,” Howard said. “This is more of a dream, this is what he wanted, what he always spoke highly of doing.”

However, students note that a new center has been rumored for a while.

“I hear that they’re building a new building but I’ve heard that since freshmen year, it is all a bunch of baloney,” Beckham said.

Howard said she used to be a naysayer too, but the $4.9 million pledge and consent from the University is a “definite gamechanger.”

[email protected]