The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

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The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

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Our Story, Our Future, Our House: A Year Into the University of Chicago Black Council

Collage+of+mingling+during+the+Inaugural+University+of+Chicago+Black+Conference.
Courtesy of Arsima Araya
Collage of mingling during the Inaugural University of Chicago Black Conference.

The aroma of freshly brewed coffee was lingering in the air while, groups of students flocked to hear of UChicago’s campus in the late ’60s from artist and alum Patric McCoy, ’69 A.B. In a group opposite of McCoy, alumni that graduated in consecutive years meet for the first time. Compliments and gratitude are woven into goodbyes, with the last few words being “When is next year’s conference? I can’t wait!” 

 

Less than a year later, the University of Chicago Black Council is back and returned to host its second annual University of Chicago Black Conference on February 4th, 2024. 

 

The University of Chicago Black Council is a collaborative an effort involving the Organization of Black Students (OBS), African and Caribbean Student Association (ACSA), University of Chicago Association of Black Alumni (UCABA), various undergraduate and graduate RSOs, faculty, staff, and members of the community. A priority of the Black Council is to engage the community in a genuine and neighborly way. The Black council understands the University has severed its relationship with the community to the point where certain organizations and people do not feel welcomed on our campus. The council aims to synergize our existing communities and combine our efforts into a mobilized network of individuals working towards equity, prosperity, and solidarity between Black UChicagoans and our neighbors in the surrounding communities. One of the Black Council’s main goals is to found a Black community space, a Black House, similar to other physical student affinity spaces at UChicago’s peer institutions. The February event marked the Black Council’s second conference and fourth event within less than a year since being established. Though there is still much work to be done to strengthen the foundation of the Black community and build a house, the Council is eager to continue building and engaging this event and its mission. The second annual conference was hosted in the Logan Center for the Arts, a new collaborative partner. Additionally, the Council has gained key sponsorships from the Center for Identity and Inclusion, University Community Service Center, and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture (CSRPC). 

 

Through thoughtful and respectful engagement, this conference aspires to underscore the necessity for establishing a Black House on campus: building a place for meaningful interaction, support, and shared growth with Hyde Park and Chicago land residents. To house scholarship, community building, and reflecting the beauty of the neighborhood we inhabit. 

 

As the population of Black students continues to rise at unprecedented rates at the University, the need for a Black House, as well as more Black advocacy on campus, is abundantly clear.  In 2016, the total Black student population was a mere 5 percent. However, in 2022, Black students composed 14 percent of the Class of 2026. Alongside the foundation of new cultural and ethnic organizations rooted in Blackness, such as Black Professional Society, Nigerian Student Association, and East African Student Association, and the creation of a major specializing in the field of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity, the Black students, faculty, and staff, have pushed persistently for change at UChicago. The Black Council played an integral role in facilitating a space to continue these conversations welcoming all diverse parties at its conference. 

 

Last year, the council’s featured keynote panel speakers, UChicago alum and longtime Southsider Patric McCoy, Crown School alum Briana Payton A.M. ’20, community organizer Shannon Bennett, and Crown School professor Lisa Moore, Ph.D. spoke on transformative shifts within the University, but were clear in their identification of shortcomings and fundamental inadequacies of the University to address amplifying the voices of Black UChicagoans and Southsiders. The Council is always looking for donors, activists, and anyone passionate for change to further push our campaigns and initiatives. As we construct the vision of our home, we value all those who wish to be involved

 

Following the inaugural event, the Black Council was awarded the CSRPC “Reimagining the University” Grant to roll out our two-part “Community Conversation Series: Building Our Temporary Homes.” The grant was given in order to further expand the dialogue between the parties we serve in efforts to represent our communities interests and needs. The severed relationship between the University and the South Side community is one where neighbors of the University feel drawn to programming and initiatives designed to engage them; – this includes the severed relationships with graduate students, alumni, and faculty.: with a recurring question being how do we bridge divides? What the Council does is lean on the interests and needs of our members: ; what encourages their attendance,  and what gaps exist in their interests, and how can we fill these gaps. The two events targeted the key interests of membership following the inaugural conference. The first event on Arts + Advocacy featured MacArthur Recipient and former University of Chicago Laboratory student Amanda Williams, ’92 LAB and Patric McCoy. The second, on Student Experiences, featuring third-year Sheila Tume in the College, and fourth-year Indigo Wright. Both events further the engagement of students and community in facilitating a vision for what conversation and programming the Black House should provide in light of the gaps of the University and our understanding of one another.

 

While other universities celebrate decades worth of conferences, we’re just getting started, but we are here to stay. We need you to make this possible. Our community of scholars, students, employees, and professors: no matter who you are,— whoever you are, in order to advocate for our communities’ interests and your own, we need your action, expertise, and knowledge to mobilize Black UChicago toward a University and community that reflect us and our interests.

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