Race & Identity
San Francisco State University's Black Unity Center Opens Doors To Students After Years In The Making
The center fits in with the university's commitment to civil rights.
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In the 1960s, the civil rights movement shaped and reformed San Francisco State just like the nation but more so. The bay area was a center for activists and the civil rights movement went from marching in the streets to advocating for more inclusive education on campus.
The university's black/Africana studies program paved the way for other campuses to adopt a curriculum of that nature. This center is a part of that tradition of activism because students had to fight to get the doors opened. The Center opened for the fall semester and is housed in a former dormitory suite on the first floor of Village C.
“These Centers started popping up on predominantly White campuses around the country as early as the 1960s and '70s as safe havens for Black students,” said Serie McDougal III, associate professor of Africana Studies in the College of Ethnic Studies and the interim director of the Center. “They used to be more for cultural events, where people could come to feel comfortable with one another on campus. But now they’re becoming not just for cultural reasons, but also for academic and career preparation.”
However, the center serves as more than a meeting place. It's also a destination on campus that will allow students to obtain tutoring and counseling and to organize and attend cultural programs. This a space to celebrate blackness without a filter.
Most importantly though, is that the center was created to close the education gap. In support of California State University’s Graduation Initiative 2025, the center will hopefully raise retention and graduation rates, strengthen student learning and improve the student experience at all levels.
“If we have a resource center right where the freshmen and sophomores are, they’re more likely to use the resources,” said Ghila Andemeskel, a recent SF State graduate who was a leader in the Black Student Union (BSU). “As soon as they come in, right in front of their faces, there are advisers, there’s information on their majors, information on black faculty being resources for them.”
With the university's budget protests in its past, San Francisco State has reaffirmed its commitment to black students and understands that black education matters just as much as black lives.