After five months of renovation, and a tumultuous period of staff and student discontent over the center’s deterioration for years, the African American Cultural and Resource Center at the University of Cincinnati will reopen its doors Tuesday.
“It’s not just a black cultural center,” said Eric Abercrumbie, AACRC director. “It’s a university gathering space. Everyone uses the center.”
The university poured $325,000 into the renovation of the center, which started in August 2012. Renovations included “visually opening up the space,” adding new furniture, carpet, televisions and African artifacts.
While remodeling occurred throughout the fall semester, employees and students who frequented the center were displaced to other buildings throughout campus. AACRC staff members were forced to relocate to parts of the Steger Student Life Center, said Ewaniki Moore-Hawkins, assistant director of the AACRC and Ethnic Programs and Services.
“That was kind of tricky for us,” Moore-Hawkins said. “It didn’t actually allow us to do everything that we would like to do because we didn’t have our own space.”
Many initiatives the AACRC supports, such as Brothers To Brothers and Sisters Impacting Sisters, couldn’t host meetings in the center.
Instead, the initiatives held meetings in the Tangeman University Center and offices in Steger.
“Both of those initiatives took place in the Tangeman University Center when we could get it scheduled and within Steger,” Moore-Hawkins said. “Especially when it was in Tangeman, it was a challenge because in the [AACRC] we were allowed to have food and people can bring in different types of food whereas in [TUC], we couldn’t do that.”
Without the full use of the facility, the importance of the center came into sharp focus for Moore-Hawkins.
“Because when we didn’t have it, it really became a challenge for us to do everything that we do — even with students, it was hard to see all of the student base that we usually serve,” she said.
The renovation marks a new era departing from past problems.
“The center is 20 years old so you can imagine it needed freshening up years and years ago,” Moore-Hawkins said. “We’ve had students that have been speaking up and voicing their concerns for the deterioration of the center for years now. So, this has been an ongoing battle, and finally something was done about it.”
In the 2011-12 academic year, sightings of rodents and animal control issues inundated the center. Rodent sightings peaked with approximately 20 mice trapped in the center from Dec. 1 to Dec. 10, 2011, and more than 10 found in the center in March, said AACRC student worker Mario Shaw in an interview in April.
Abercrumbie said the center hasn’t had a rodent problem since June. UC Facilities spent approximately $1,200 on pest control — $200 for traps and $540 on inspections per year — in the AACRC alone, said Bob Bauer, UC Facilities director for grounds, in an interview in April 2012.
When the center opened in September 1991, university officials stated the location would be temporary, but 22 years later, the AACRC remains in its original site at 65 West Charlton Street.
“I think right now we are happy with the renovations and really excited about it for our students,” Moore-Hawkins said. “As far as a master plan for the cultural center, it would be nice if one day we could be in a freestanding facility on campus.”
A “home away from home” for students, Abercrumbie said he is excited to unveil the multifunctional center.
With a mural on one wall detailing the history of significant contributions made by black UC students and graduates, he hopes the center will be educational for everyone who visits. The Undergraduate Student Government already requested to host meetings in the new center and Abercrumbie encourages the entire UC community to benefit from the AACRC.
“There is no place on campus or in this city more beautiful and with more purpose than our African American Cultural and Resource Center,” he said. “Because now, it’s not just a building. There’s nothing like visiting the [AACRC] at the University of Cincinnati.”