Since it was created four decades ago, the Center for Black Studies has woven itself tightly into NIU’s fabric.
It started as a place where students and faculty can develop courses for the new minor, Black Studies. It also was a place for students and faculty to discuss issues that were going on both on- and off-campus and around the country.
Now, the building on Carroll Avenue is a place where students enroll in classes, perform research, join organizations and receive academic or career advice.
More importantly, the Center for Black Studies is a place where students, no matter what their race, can network with classmates and feel at home, says LaVerne Gyant, its director.
“We’re not just for African-American students,” Gyant says. “We’re for all students and the community as well.”
Because it has been that way for years, it will be no surprise when the NIU and DeKalb communities turn out for the center’s 40th anniversary celebration during the week of April 15.
During the week, lectures and classes will be held, speeches will be recited and a gala party will be enjoyed with the help of its co-sponsor, the NIU Black Alumni Council. The party will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 21 in the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago.
But special events are not needed to give credit to the center and its accomplishments, says Gyant, a professor who works in NIU’s Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education.
They are seen every day when students and faculty members meet in one of its classrooms to learn or plan a campus-wide event.
Through the center, the minor is offered to students who want to learn about the contributions and heritage of black people throughout the world.
“Since we started offering it, the number of courses available in the minor has increased 100-fold,” Gyant says.
The center is open five days a week for activities related to the NIU campus. On many weekends, community organizations use it as a meeting place, Gyant says. “It has become the focal point for so many activities,” she says.
For more information about the center and the events planned for the week, call (815) 753-1709 or email [email protected].
by Gerard Dziuba