While the fourth floor of the Student Union may be emptier than University of Connecticut students are used to, the cultural centers are still in full swing and working to strengthen the communities they have built since their founding. This is certainly true for the African American Cultural Center (AACC).
Just a semester ago, the center was kept open until 11 p.m. to provide for the students and faculty of the 35 organizations affiliated with the AACC. Clubs would meet for meetings; students would speak to staff members and many would stop in just to say hello.
Dr. Willena Kimpson Price, director of the AACC and affiliate faculty member of the Africana Studies Institute, spoke with The Daily Campus to address what the semester will look like for the center.
“A lot of the programs and activities we have done in the past, that are more traditional, we are still doing them, but of course in the virtual mode,” Price assured.
Even as early as last semester, the AACC made sure to uphold its traditions by presenting their graduates with official African kente cloth stoles in a virtual ceremony.
The center has adapted their programs and activities to continue to aid the UConn student body and foster their well-known, close-knit community. Every week, the center hosts Mental Health Mondays and in a few weeks, they will begin their Community Conversations series where several topics will be openly discussed including wellness and mental health, racialized violence and racism, navigating online classes, maintaining and sustaining relationships and career development and network building.
This joins their already jam-packed schedule for the semester, which includes their Welcome Back Fall Festival and the publication of “The Vision,” a student-produced and published work that showcases both the literary and visual art their students create.
“Over the course of several decades, the African-American Cultural Center has really adjusted to what was going on in our world and climate,” Price said, speaking to both the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and current issues of racism and racialized violence.
“When the center was founded, we were talking about the Civil Rights Movement, and Martin Luther King, and all the protests, the lynchings, the killings, the segregation in the Deep South and beyond that. There were protest marches on campus at UConn,” Price explained. “We have quite a history of being on the frontlines. We are going through a lot right now, but everybody is. We will get through it. I believe that.”
The H. Fred Simons African American Cultural Center was founded in 1968 during the Civil Rights Movement as a way to build a community for African American students on the UConn campus in a time where community was hard to find for minority students. The AACC was the first of UConn’s five cultural centers. Since its founding, the AACC has continued to be at the forefront of activism and advocacy. In 2018, the center celebrated its 50th anniversary, and has no plans to slow any of the tremendous work they do on our campus and beyond.
Price said, “There is no “instead of” [this semester]. We’re still rocking and rolling, doing what we do, but we’re doing it in a virtual mode, and we’re doing it with excellence.”
For more information about the African American Cultural Center or to learn how to get involved, visit https://aacc.uconn.edu/.