The Black House reopens with reflections on the past and a look to the future

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After a major renovation over the past two years, Northwestern’s historic Black House will be rededicated today, October 15, with a ribbon cut and grand reopening.

Events are scheduled during Reunion and Reunion weekend so that the college community can come together to celebrate the past, present and future of the Black House and its function as a critical space for the Black Connection on the campus.

“We are delighted to welcome our dedicated Black students and alumni back to this important and vitally important location on campus,” said Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, Vice President of Student Affairs. “The hard work and care that so many of our students, faculty, staff and alumni put into this project can be felt throughout the space, and it shows how much the Black House is revered by so many members. of our community. “

The dedication program, which begins at 3:30 p.m. at 1914 Sheridan Road in Evanston, kicks off a series of events throughout the weekend which honor Northwestern’s black alumni, as well as students, faculty and staff, and their long history of advocacy and activism.

“Many years of preparation”

“This moment has been in the works for many years,” said Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson, assistant vice president for inclusion and chief of staff in the Student Affairs Division. “Over the past five years, we have worked diligently to center the voices of Black students in every phase of this project while engaging with Black alumni, faculty and staff, and together we have made it happen. completion of the project. There was a lot of intentionality in every aspect of this project, which was overseen by the Black House Renovation Steering Committee.

In addition, three sub-committees were formed: the Black House Policy Committee, the Black House Curating the Space Committee and the Black House Reopening Committee.

“The beauty, thoughtfulness and care that is evident in the home’s design choices, operations, storytelling and aesthetics is the culmination of the diligent work of many,” added Brown-Henderson.

The renovation of the Black House is one of Northwestern’s commitments to racial and social justice as listed in a message from university leaders to the community in June 2020.

“A place that belongs to us”

Black students fought for the creation of the Black House in 1968 during Bursar’s Office Takeover, a protest that transformed the black experience and history of the Northwestern. The occupation by more than 100 students and allies from the Northwest lasted 38 hours, ending in a negotiated resolution in which the administration responded to a list of eight student requests.

One of those requests was for a social space dedicated to black students. The students wrote: “We demand a Black Student Union, a place to be used for social and recreational activities. Black students have nothing to do in Northwestern. We need a place where we can feel free to come and go as we please.

“The Black House served as a safe haven for many students during their time at Northwestern,” said Charla Wilson, University archivist for the Black Experience. “Historically, this is a place that many depended on to connect with the community, participate in cultural programs, or even just have a sympathetic and supportive ear.

‘Be part of the mural heritage’

Visitors to the Black House will see a new mural created by artist and alumnus Dwight White (’16, ’17 MS). A graduate in sociology and communications – and former Wildcat football player – White spent time at the Black House as a student and leader of the For Members Only group.

The renovated facility, which is operated and maintained by Multicultural Student Affairs, has a new floor plan, new furnishings and new finishes. With a priority on accessibility – there is an elevator as well as a gender-neutral washroom – the overriding objective was to create a new space welcoming to all and true to the original sense of character and community of the Black House.

The Black House Renovation Steering Committee, led by Payne-Kirchmeier and Brown-Henderson, guided the renovation from the initial feasibility study conducted by Black-owned architectural firm Moody Nolan to the design phase and through to completion. The construction company, GMA Construction Group, is owned and operated by Northwestern Black alumnus Cornelius Griggs (‘14).

“May this historic renovation be a symbol of our unwavering commitment and collective action to make Northwestern a fairer and more inclusive campus for our black students and certainly for all marginalized students,” said Brown-Henderson.


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