‘For us, by us, through us’
The Black Community Services Center has been building community and space for Black students, faculty, and staff at Stanford since 1969.
In a moment when student activism is at the forefront of conversation in and around higher education, Stanford’s Black Community Services Center is taking the opportunity to look back and celebrate its own history. But the center, better known as the Black House, is also taking the opportunity to look ahead.
“Our theme for Black Liberation Month this year is ‘For us, by us, through us,’” said Rosalind Conerly, associate dean and Karr Family Director of the Black Community Services Center (BCSC). “We are honoring the legacy of the alums who were students that fought to get us here, but we’re also capturing the voices of our current students and the current Black community as we think about and look to the future.”
Passing the mic
This year, the Black House, which provides programming and support for Black-identifying students, faculty, and staff at Stanford, is celebrating 55 years.
Established in 1969 following student activism after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the center serves as a hub for the support of more than 30 Black volunteer student organizations. Its creation also led to the formation of additional campus community centers known collectively as the Centers for Equity, Community, and Leadership.
On April 8, 1968, days after King’s death, during a panel that featured all white men discussing racism in America, 70 members of the Black Student Union, alongside members of the local community, took the mic and issued 10 demands, ultimately leading to the establishment of the BCSC and the Program in African and African American Studies, which this fall became the Department of African and African American Studies in the School of Humanities and Sciences.
This year, Black Liberation Month celebrations are woven in and among the center’s year-long plans to celebrate its 55th anniversary, including the launch of a podcast called “Passing the mic.”
Each episode features current students and staff interviewing alumni, faculty, and staff following a theme exploring the idea of “audacity,” including the audacity to give back and the audacity to reimagine.
“These are folks who have had a massive impact on the house and we’re having a conversation about what it means to hold and create space to be seen where you’re not supposed to be seen or have a voice,” said BCSC Assistant Director Maya Iverson-Davis.
Show up and show out
While 55th anniversary celebrations will continue all year, February will culminate with a BCSC birthday party on Feb. 24. The weekend-long party will start with a popup shop at the Black House featuring Black entrepreneurs and artists on Feb. 23 and end with a gala held in partnership with the Department of African and African American Studies at the Cantor on Feb. 24.
“We want folks to show up and show out,” said Dom Johnson, assistant dean and BCSC associate director. “We want [folks] to take a moment to celebrate themselves, celebrate their Blackness, and celebrate the melanin that we all share.”
Looking to celebrate Black History Month and the BCSC’s 55th anniversary? BCSC events, including the kickoff and birthday party, will be added to the community calendar throughout the month of February, and faculty, staff, and student groups are invited to continue adding to the listing. Additional events, including details about a social and book talk tonight, will be added to the Stanford Events calendar.