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Mace and Crown | May 27, 2018

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ODU NAACP and Generation Forward Rally for Black Cultural Center

Josh Whitener
News Editor

The Old Dominion chapter of the NAACP and the student group, Generation Forward, have proposed a plan to university administration to develop a Black cultural center on campus. Advocates say the proposal has been met with indifference and disinterest, noting the increased racial tension nationwide.

The Generation Forward Coalition created a plan last Spring and has proposed it to Ellen Neufeldt, Vice President for Student Engagement & Enrollment Services, The Office of International Relations, and ODU President John Broderick.

They’re quick to note that they aren’t asking for something new, but the return of a space that was taken away.

In 1991 the Hugo Owens African American Cultural Center was established to help black students in academic matters and personal needs. The Center remained on campus until 2008 when it was closed for housing expansion during ODU’s transition to a residential campus.

“It was just a safe space for black students to come [for] fellowship and talk about black issues. It was a place for research [and] it was a place for activity hour like we have here now. The NAACP would have their step shows, organizational meetings [and] basically we’re trying to bring that center back,” Michael Atkins, ODU NAACP Educational Chairman, said.

Atkins is also a member of Generation Forward.

“The importance of the black culture center is to finally give appreciation to the black community at ODU, providing an area where people of different backgrounds can learn our stories,” Samantha Conyers, ODU NAACP President, said.

The proposal outlines a strategic plan that coincides with the university’s 2014-2019 Strategic Plan. They say the accentuated guidelines the cultural center would follow would “increase Old Dominion University’s national and international reputation for research excellence” and “promote the university’s inclusive community and encourage an ethos of cultural competence”.

The proposal also includes six other black student organizations that “engage in cultural programming.” The list includes the African Student Association (ASA), Black Student Alliance (BSA), Caribbean Student Association, Minds About Progress, NAACP, and the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC).

Conyers emphasized that all the black student organizations should come together as one in order to better represent black student organization numbers in participation.

“The [ODU] NAACP, our big thing this year is creating unity amongst all minority organizations on campus because we all seem to compete against each other rather than all of us just coming together and going towards the same goal,” Conyers said.

Members like Atkins, representing Generation Forward, and Conyers, representing the ODU NAACP, are encouraging students by speaking to classes about the importance of a Black cultural center as well as utilizing social media. Reactions from students have been positive and supportive, some even voicing interest in supporting them through their own organizations. An ODU football player and a sorority member both expressed interest in supporting the cause during Atkins and Conyers presentation in Professor Vaughan Frederick’s Into to Women’s Studies course.

oth organizations are still requesting meetings with administration to promote the need for a Black Cultural Center on campus.