‘A Long time coming:’ CU Boulder Center for African and African American Studies holds grand opening
In college, on campus, and in the classroom, Audrea Fryar was one of the few Black and Black women at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Every day in each of these rooms she felt the isolation that came with it. But she decided she didn’t want future students to know the same feeling.
Finally, after years of collaboration and dedication, their vision has become a reality.
“I hope the students who come after me don’t have to feel the campus that I felt when I came to CU because it’s tough,” said Fryar, a CU Boulder graduate student and co-founder of the Center for African and African American Studies. “As a black student, as a black woman, as a non-athlete, it’s really tough. It’s definitely a tough place. My goal is to make sure that doesn’t happen again – that people have a place to come.”
The CU Boulder Center for African and African American Studies celebrated its grand opening on Wednesday, some two years after it was founded on campus. About 250 people attended the opening ceremony of the center, housed in the Macky Auditorium Concert Hall. During the event, guests mingled while listening to a performance of classical music by CU Boulder students and a performance by Denver-based rappers The Supreme Team.
For professor and director of the center Reiland Rabaka, the center has been a goal for more than 15 years. Now a dream comes true.
“I think it’s like Sam Cooke said, ‘It took a long time,'” Rabaka said. “[There was]a lot of hard work — not just myself, but a lot of people here in Boulder who really invested in this thing.”
Rabaka said the center is also known as The Cause, which represents human freedom, self-transformation, social transformation, and institutional transformation.
“That’s what this is about,” he said in an interview with campus officials.
Julie Poppen, a spokeswoman for CU Boulder, said the rooms at Macky were renovated before the center moved on July 1. She wasn’t sure when the renovations would be complete, but said the center previously operated remotely.
The center is in the second of five years of its seed funding of $150,000 per year and embedded support services of $95,000 per year. It is also in its second of four years of graduate school funding. It gets $25,000 a year. Additionally, Chancellor Philip DiStefano announced Wednesday that the campus will donate $1 million over the next five years to match private donations to the center. The one million dollars would come from the Chancellery, said Poppen.
“The center has three main components: research, visual and performing arts, and student services,” DiStefano said. “Like the legs of a stool, each one supports the larger goal of creating a space and community where we can learn more about Africa and African Americans.”
During his speech, DiStefano emphasized the importance of the center’s work, which he believes is more important than ever. The grand opening not only took place during Black History Month, but on the same day as Tire Nichols’ funeral in Memphis, Tennessee. Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, died after being beaten by five black police officers.
“[The center is]a reminder of the urgency of all of our work to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in our own communities and on our campus,” DiStefano said.
The center is the first of its kind on campus and also the first to serve students, staff and faculty simultaneously. For Rabaka it is a legacy.
“I don’t necessarily know what people who look like us think about leaving a legacy at the University of Colorado Boulder,” he said. “I hope a lot of that changes today.”