“Afro Room” first of its kind at CSUEB

Briana Wharton,

In December, a group of Black students at Cal State East Bay gathered on campus — wearing all black — with an aim to “take a stand against all of the current injustices happening to Black people and students nationwide.”

A month prior, they had formed a GroupMe chat named BlackOut, then began to circulate the words “East Bay Blackout” with a silhouette of a fist and the hashtag #BlackAtTheBay on Instagram and Facebook. Members of the group, not a formal club, were acquainted through other African American clubs and organizations concerned with the quality of support and educational development for Black students on campus.

They shared a list of 10 demands for the University, listing a need for greater resources as well as services and academic support for Black students. More than 100 people signed a petition in support of the group’s demands. They raised $400 in donations on their first day, funds designated for future BlackOut events and seed money to establish a Black Student Government they would like to see on campus. This winter, the collective has focused entirely on obtaining a room.

Since the Blackout, members have held additional meetings, and have now approached the university again to ask for the following specific things: a room exclusively dedicated to serving the needs of Black students, sensitivity training for campus police and staff, and more Black faculty and counselors.

Students introduced the idea of an “Afro Room” first to ASI’s external affairs committee on Jan. 15 and then passed it on to student government board of directors on Jan. 20. Both groups voted unanimously to approve the room, explained David Lopez, ASI president.

To fund this room, the student government board of directors want to gain support from all other 22 CSU campuses ASI boards to see if they have an “Afro Room” “Afro Room”on their campus. The ASI student government’s task force is now looking into space availability on campus, the potential cost of a remodel or rebuild and any necessary staff that the Afro Room would require. 

At the President’s Luncheon in February ASI board members gave a presentation to President Leroy M. Morishita about the Afro Room. They are still awaiting his response but if he approves, the president will then work with his task force on an agreed budget for the room.

“The more support and facts we have, the more the president will take this situation seriously,” said Lopez.

Members of Blackout argued that current campus services — the Kaleidoscope Mentoring Program and the Educational Opportunity Program — don’t do enough to serve Black students. The goal of the Afro Room is to do something these other services don’t or perhaps can’t: assist Black students exclusively.

“The room will be inclusive for all black students no matter what financial background or years of completion they have done in college, and the room will also serve as a sanctuary where we can feel comfortable, throw events and support one another”, said Cynthia Husband, a Blackout participant who was involved in presenting the idea for the Afro Room.

The room has no official opening date and it may take until Fall 2018 to allocate the space and obtain the required funds and staff, but many people believe that the room will open sooner than that.

“I think it’s necessary to have this Afro room on campus,” said, Brenda Brown, a fourth year student at CSUEB. “I’m excited, I can picture it now. It’s a powerful thing to see black students come together for something great. Hopefully it opens before I graduate.”