Building the ‘ideal cultural center’

Set to open for student use spring 2019


Elisabeth Neely

Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center

By Rebecca Wood, Staff writer

After being at its temporary location since 2014, the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center (BNAACC) is taking strides in moving to a permanent location.

Currently located on 51 E. Gregory Dr. in Champaign, the BNAACC has been open since 1969, carrying out the mission of Bruce D. Nesbitt.

“The mission of the BNAACC is to provide a network of programs and support services promoting the individual, social, cultural and academic well-being of Illinois’ African American students,” said Nathan Stephens, director of the BNAACC.

Stephens said the BNAACC originally moved to the temporary location because students protested about the living conditions at the house on Nevada and Mathews. Later, black mold and asbestos were found during an inspection.

Dr. Gigi Secuban, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs and director of Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Relations, is working closely with the staff and students of the BNAACC, especially through the moving process.

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Secuban said she does not feel that the move to a temporary location has halted any efforts of the BNAACC. Students are still as involved and as passionate.

“It should be done by December 2018 or January 2019, but it’ll still take some time to move everything in. So it should be able for students to actually live in by spring 2019,” Secuban said.

Averi Simpson, senior in Media, is president of Central Black Student Union and works closely with BNAACC.

“The location doesn’t feel very temporary anymore because we’ve been there since my sophomore year,” Simpson said. “I’ve somewhat gotten used to it.”

Once the BNAACC is completed, Secuban said everything should be updated, along with having new features such as study and lounge areas for the students, a kitchen and conference rooms to be rented out.

Another important aspect of this change in location is accessibility. Secuban said they want students to be able to flow in and out of the building throughout the day, between classes. A site close to the Main Quad was agreed upon to work best.

The feedback and reactions from students have been limited while at the temporary location because many details are not public yet.

“We haven’t seen a ton (of feedback) because we haven’t made it very public yet. However, we are having an official goodbye celebration Oct. 14 for anyone who would like to go,” Secuban said.

The official Goodbye Celebration will take place 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 14 at the original location of 708 S. Mathews Ave. in Urbana.

Secuban said it will be a meaningful event where students and faculty can say goodbye to a place they call “home” and even purchase bricks for the new building.

“I think a new location will be amazing and should include more space,” Simpson said. “I’m really excited to see what it will be like, but unfortunately, it more than likely won’t be (ready) before I graduate.”

“The ideal cultural center for me would be a space with enough amenities and resources to conduct our programs and services and still have room to expand,” Stephens said.

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