Taking a concrete step to foster a sense of belonging and a space of connection for the Black student body, with an atmosphere that prioritizes the well-being of the Black student population at Loyola Marymount University, the Black Student Space is being established as a permanent campus location.
Black Student Space, which will have a celebration opening today [Oct. 26] at 4 p.m., will be located at Bird Nest overlooking the bluff and Playa Vista.
“In my eyes, this space is just the starting point to develop a location for communal safety and celebrate the history and traditions of the African Diaspora not only here at LMU but across the world,” said Jeffrey Dolliole, director of Black Student Services. “Often times, Black culture is erased or hidden; my hope is that The Mbongi Spot serves as a location and a symbol for past, present and future Black LMU Lions to understand their value and history in shaping LMU into the institution it is today and moving forward.”
The Black Student Space committee surveyed Black students, faculty, and staff to get a sense of the community’s vision for the site. The Bird Nest renovations began in summer of 2021 after approval and coordination by an 11-person committee of Black students and staff, Student Affairs, and support from Facilities Management.
“Preparing for the opening of the Black Student Space, as known as The Mbongi Spot, has been a surreal experience as I’ve been able to watch our journey from the creation of the #BlackAtLMU demands to seeing some of our goals come to fruition,” said Simone Butler ’22, a political science major and African American studies minor, who is an operations assistant at the Black Student Space. “Our three pillars are Student Success, Communal Engagement, and Social Justice, and my expectation is that everything that takes place in the space aligns with these values.”
Jennifer Abe, vice president for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, said, “The creation of this space must be credited to the incredible advocacy of the student leadership for #BlackatLMU.”
The path to establishing the Black Student Space began in August 2020, when the #BlackatLMU student group put forth a letter to President Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D., and other university leadership with a list of demands that would result in a better LMU experience for Black students. The Black Faculty and Staff Association followed with their own letter, in solidarity and support for students and expectations to improve the LMU experience for Black staff and faculty as well. President Snyder shared a letter on Sept. 4, 2020, acknowledging the Black students’ demands and outlining LMU’s commitment to being pro-actively anti-racist. In November 2020, a committee was formed within Student Affairs to develop a plan for the space at Bird Nest and in April 2021, Student Affairs and Facilities Management came together to identify the scope of the project, associated costs, and priorities.
“I look forward to alums coming back to see this iconic space,” said Charles Mason, associate director of transfer admission. “It will give them chills.”
Mason, whose 31-year career at LMU as an admission counselor advised and nurtured the vast majority of Black LMU students, said he is thrilled with the Black Student Space.
“It is a celebration of students, faculty, staff and alums,” he said, noting that at the beginning of his LMU career, Black students too often felt like outsiders, with no place to congregate. “The Black Student Space will not only benefit our Black students, but also the whole university. It will be a learning experience for all students and it will strengthen the university.”
The Black Student Space will provide a “homeplace,” in bell hooks’ sense of a place of refuge, healing, and resistance to oppression. Black Student Space will contribute to the formation and holistic care of Black undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty and staff. The university recognizes that for the Black community, there are culturally specific needs that have gone unattended regardless of LMU’s Jesuit heritage.
The site provides ample space for congregation and mentorship, as well as computer stations, printers, and lounge furniture. The pillars of the space include a commitment to student success, communal engagement, and social justice with an ethos statement identifying it as a place for honoring Black, personhood, ancestors, and treating others with intentionality, dignity, and respect. All who request the use of this space are expected to honor these values.
The university has also launched an Inclusive History and Images Project, in response to another demand, to recognize LMU’s diverse stories, gathering images from the LMU archives, inviting alumni to share their memories, photos, and perspectives on LMU and exploring the Jesuit history and legacy in Los Angeles, with the leadership and support of the Jesuit Community.
The above comes from the Oct. 26 issue of LMU This Week.