Though most openings are celebrated with a ribbon-cutting, the African-American & American Indian Cultural Center was inaugurated with burned sage pointed to the four corners of the room.
More than 100 students, staff and community members attended the noon opening Wednesday in the Educational Opportunity Program building. The center will host the weekly African Diaspora film series, American Indian gatherings, art displays and cultural leadership development, as well as counseling for minority and non-minority students. The AAAICC will also be the site of club meetings and cultural resources and reference materials, such as employment opportunities and scholarship information.
Senior Aaron Jones, a black studies and political science major, attended to support the center’s effort on combining programs of the two cultures.
“As a person of both African and Native American ancestry, this center is pertinent to my heritage,” Jones said. “If nothing else, there is a common ailment to both peoples, and that is white supremacy.”
“I can definitely identify with being the only black student in a class of 400 people,” said EOP counselor and UCSB graduate Ross Fontes. “The cultural center represents a place where you can go and be at home.”
Chidimma Offoh lived in Nigeria until she was 10 and now attends graduate school at UCSB while working as an EOP counselor. Offoh helped plan the opening ceremony, which included a presentation of the artwork and artifacts to the center. She also helped to plan cultural music and dance performances, and welcome remarks from American Indian elders and program coordinators.
“I really saw a need for a space dedicated to African-American students and other students to learn about the culture,” Offoh said. “Being an immigrant, I feel I have a lot to offer as far as culture and knowledge.”
The center, formerly the site of the Educational Student Activity Center, is now adorned with a Native American storytelling quilt, a flyer for a slave auction and African masks and musical instruments. UCSB professors, the Anthropology Dept. and members of the African-American and American Indian communities donated many of the decorations and artwork presented at the event.
The AAAICC will eventually be relocated to the Student Resource Center on campus, which will be constructed within the next five years.
The EOP sponsors cultural programming through centers such as the AAAICC, El Centro and the Asian Resource Center, and works with faculty and staff to organize academic programs. Upcoming events include a Kwanzaa 2002 celebration and Native American arts and music festivals.