Thanks to a challenge gift from the Tarbell Family Foundation in memory of George Floyd, contributions through Aug. 5 to the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center will be matched up to a total of $20,000 for all donations.
The matching opportunity has inspired the UO community and others to give, said center coordinator Aris Hall. But more contributions are needed to reach the $20,000 goal.
The funds will support initiatives that increase the recruitment, retention and graduation of Black students. They will also help nurture a sense of belonging and community, whether or not COVID-19 prevents students from visiting the center in person.
“We’re very grateful for this matching gift and everyone who is helping us advance the BCC vision,” Hall said. “Regardless of what campus looks like in the fall, these investments make it possible for us to welcome Black students and help them feel like they matter on this campus.”
Gifts to the campaign will support programming, including forums for Black students, faculty members and staff; events such as Social Sundays, which will hopefully start this fall, during which students share a meal and learn about Black culture and heritage; and Black History Month activities.
COVID-19 has dramatically changed center operations for spring and summer. Nevertheless, the center continues to offer a welcoming and supportive, albeit virtual, space where Black students at the UO can harness the academic, social and cultural resources they need to navigate their experiences at the UO.
“Our new building is a retreat, a place to build community and an important symbol,” Hall said. “We all look forward to physically gathering together again. But we’ve discovered that we can also use technology to unite and work toward our mission, which has not changed.”
For example, they’re continuing a weekly student support program called Super Soul Tuesdays. But academic and career specialists now connect with students using Microsoft Teams. Community conversations happen on Zoom and Instagram Live. Thanks to Netflix Party, which synchronizes playback and offers group chat, students are continuing with movie night.
During a time of widespread divisiveness, Hall said, the center is providing vital ways for students to connect. In response to the George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter movement, the center hosted virtual roundtable discussions with students, staff and faculty members. Those activities gave students a forum to share their voices, discuss how to move forward and talk about changes they want at the center and the university.
Through social media and virtual-meeting platforms, the center shares information and supports Black students, staff and faculty members. The programming is helping them challenge the status quo and work toward change, Hall said.
Looking to the future, the center is planning for safe and effective operations regardless of what the new academic year brings. Like other UO staff members, center employees have adapted quickly to changing circumstances due to COVID-19, and the only certainty about the new year is more change.
Resources will enable the center to plan for potential scenarios, communicate effectively with students during COVID-19 and address financial challenges affecting the university. Hall hopes the matching campaign will help the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center — both the building on East 15th Avenue and the community — keep moving forward.
—By Ed Dorsch, University Communications