USG Black House proposal underway

Following its approval in the Undergraduate Student Government Senate last fall, Undergraduate Student Government plan to move forward with the Black House project this semester.

Though the project will not come to fruition for another five to 10 years, four student task force teams are working to submit a proposal to the university administration by the end of February.

Two challenging obstacles to the proposal’s completion is securing an actual property, since there is competition from real estate companies, and drafting financial plans for the project.

Skylar Dunn, co-director of Diversity Affairs, is leading the team in charge of the fundraising and real estate search. Dunn has confirmed that his group is working alongside a real estate expert to potentially secure a property in the area north of the University Park campus.

Students have also recruited the help of Northwestern University’s Black House director, Dr. Charles Kellom, to introduce sustainability models that will allow USC’s house to run for decades without charging students for its use.

Levi Powell, the proposal’s author and logistics and vision team facilitator, explained that the house would not be a living space.  Instead, the house will offer “mentorship, academic programs and a space for conversations about issues of the day” to support students “academically, socially and morally,” explained Powell in an email statement.

To that end, the house’s basic amenities would include a multipurpose room and cultural galleries. The house would also offer nap rooms for student use in the afternoons, and a student-run coalition would be responsible for creating programs to foster an academic environment.  The task force plans to work closely with the USC Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs.

Education and appreciation of the varied cultural and ethnic roots of all black people are central to the vision of the house. The task force on education, communication, public relations and social media are arranging campaigns to bring student awareness to the mixed backgrounds and identities of black people.

The education task force is planning community classes for children, educational field trips and seminar courses for the USC community on issues such as black feminism, the African Diaspora and the 1992 LA Riots.

“Blackness is not a monolith,” said Ama Amoafo-Yeboah, Program Board executive director and facilitator for the Black House’s Education group. “When they lump everyone under one umbrella term it can really mess with kids’ identities.”

Next week, the communication, public relations and social media task force will unveil an inclusive “I, Too, Am USC” campaign next week modeled after the popular Harvard-based photo campaign featuring the college experiences of often underrepresented student groups.

USG Vice President Rini Sampath is co-leading the communication, public relations and social media task force.

“What students should understand is that [the Black House] is meant to serve as a stepping stone for other student groups to amplify their voices,” she said.

Thus, the project is more than just a black house initiative; it is meant to shed light on why specific movements are necessary for marginalized groups on USC’s campus.

The university’s response to the idea has been supportive thus far.  Vice Provost of Student Affairs Dr. Ainsley Carry and Executive Director of the Black Alumni Association Michele Turner are helping students ensure the proposal contains the necessary information. It won’t be until the university reviews it, however, that USC will collaborate in connecting students to investors and funding sources.

“The real work comes after the proposal,” Dunn said. “We are dependent on the Trojan family to be more than a phrase right now. This can go really big if someone just believes in us.”