(above: Eniola Abioye during the #BlackAtCal protest on Cal Day/Rachel Garner for Daily Cal)
For Immediate Release
Contact: Afrikan Black Coalition
BLACK STUDENT UNION SECURES “THE FANNIE LOU HAMER RESOURCE CENTER” AT UC BERKELEY
“Sometimes it seem like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed. But if I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I’m not backing off”—Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer
“Land is the basis of ALL independence”—Kwame Nkrumah
Oakland, CA, August 4, 2016
After over 15 months of relentless organizing, mobilizing, and negotiations, the Black Student Union at UC Berkeley–in assistance with the Afrikan Black Coalition–, has reached an agreement with Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to secure a physical building and funding to serve as the long awaited “Fannie Lou Hamer Resource Center.”
The Fannie Lou Hamer Resource Center is the result of a series of demands that were issued to the campus by the Black Student Union in March 2015. The first demand on that list read:
WE DEMAND the creation of an African-American Student Development Resource Center, to be named the Fannie Lou Hamer Resource Center, with a designated office space as well as space for hosting events, at a central campus location. This center is to be under the purview of the African-American Student Development Office.
The current Black Student Union Chair Elias Hinit and Chancellor Nicholas Dirks signed the agreement July 19th, 2016. The agreement states that the Fannie Lou Hamer Resource Center will be located in the Hearst Annex Building, rooms D3, D4, and D5 for the next five years and that the Chancellor will allocate $82,885 to refurbish the building and purchase necessary equipment. The Fannie Lou Hamer Resource Center will remain in the Hearst Annex for five years (until June 2021). If the campus does not identify a permanent space for the Center by then, the agreement stipulates that the Center will remain in the Hearst Annex for an additional five years. The Fannie Lou Hamer Center will be open to the public in early September 2016.
The historic nature of this victory and the disciplined organizing effort that brought it into fruition are best described by Gabrielle Shuman, 2014-2015 Chairwoman of the Black Student Union who states:
Make no mistake; this center was not an easy win by any means. Black students and staff have been fighting battles for a space like this for decades. We sacrificed a great deal of time, sleep, studying, and even class attendance to make sure we could catch every calculated curveball thrown at us during this process.
It is critical to note that the Black Student Union has submitted a detailed budget plan, that will enable the Fannie Lou Hamer Resource Center to serve as a fully resourced and staffed Center, to Chancellor Dirks. Our budget plan asserts that the Fannie Lou Hamer Resource Center needs a permanent annual allocation of $547,500 to be used for five full time staff members, fifteen part-time student staff, and programming & equipment needs. The Chancellor has stated that he will consider this budget proposal. The 2016-2017 Black Student Union leadership will be following up on this matter once the fall semester begins.
Our vision has always been that the Fannie Lou Hamer Resource Center will serve as the central organizing and galvanizing space to meet the academic, social, cultural, and political needs of the Black community. We hope that the Center will help sustain the Black community and produce brilliant leaders such as that of its namesake, Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer; the kind of leaders who are determined, fearless, and resolute in the struggle for Black liberation. Articulating its importance, Cori McGowens, 2015-2016 Chairwoman of the Black Student Union, states:
Black people, no matter our location, need a space of our own in order to heal, create, build and decompress. This campus has a wide array of Black leaders who will be able to utilize this space to continue to do the work of our people.
We are cognizant of the monumental and historical nature of the opening of the Fannie Lou Hamer Resource Center. We pay homage to the martyrs of the Black Freedom Struggle whose endless sacrifices have gotten our people this far and in whose honor we have the privilege of contributing to the larger Black Freedom Struggle. Locally, we wish to express our gratitude to Ms. Nzingha Dugas, Director of the African American Student Development Office, for her tireless efforts in supporting and nurturing so many of us. She has been instrumental in helping us achieve a victory in this battle, and her efforts deserve high recognition. In addition, we would like to recognize a few of the many other Black students involved in the process, whose particular commitment and courage helped make this center possible: Gabrielle Shuman, Cori McGowens, Yoel Haile, Blake Simons, AB (Alana Banks), Eniola Abioye, David Turner, Lauren Butler, Zaynab AbdulQadir, and Spencer Pritchard. To the students, and all other parties who took a smaller role in the process but nonetheless contributed to its success: we appreciate you.
Elias Hinit, the 2016-17 BSU Chairman who signed the agreement, captures our feelings about and aspirations for the Fannie Lou Hamer Resource Center when he states:
I feel so honored and privileged to not only have a Black space and learn from it, but to help grow it into something that we can use to liberate our people.
We hope that we have done justice to the legacy of our people’s warrior, Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer and pledge to continue our struggle until freedom in her example!
All Power to the People!