When asked to describe the night of the 30th-anniversary celebration of the University of Cincinnati's (UC) African American Cultural Resource Center (AACRC), both fourth-year jazz trumpet performance student Myles Twitty and fourth-year medical sciences student Kristina White had the same response: inspiring.
The center first opened its doors on Sept. 21, 1991, to provide African American students a place where they can hang out, study and embrace community while working towards their college degrees. The center nurtures the diverse voices that make up a college community. At UC, Black students account for 8% of the entire student body, and students of color make up 24%.
"I feel I can truly let my guard down and embrace my community," said Twitty. "There are times when being a Black student at UC can leave you feeling alienated and alone, but the center serves as a sort of safe haven where we as Black people can congregate and uplift each other knowing that we've shared a similar experience."
Both Twitty and White are closely affiliated with the AACRC through their roles of Mr. and Miss Kuamka. For the 30th anniversary celebration, they served as the hosts for the evening.
"We co-hosted a portion of the 30th-anniversary celebration titled The Faraha Kuzilwa," said Twitty. "In that role, we were able to introduce prominent figures in the UC Black community who graced us with their presence and inspired us with stories of their experiences on UC's campus."
The Faraha Kuzilwa translates to "happy birthday" in Swahili, according to White. Attendees dawned their most colorful, patterned attire and the AACRC gave their guests a chance to explore the space. Highlights included a walking history exhibit of the center and an after-party event. The actual Faraha Kuzilwa started off with a libation.
"A libation is an African tradition in which we pour back into the earth and honor our ancestors," said White.
Following the libation was a special tribute to the life and legacy of Black UC pioneers and former student leaders associated with the AACRC. Twitty said this was one of the highlights of the evening for him.
"Their stories left me filled with unrivaled joy at just how far we've come, but also left me feeling fired up as it reminded me of just how far we have to go," said Twitty.
The celebration also featured a special ceremony for the Lambda Society, the only Black women's focused honorary society on campus. The society tapped their new members for this year, and among the members tapped was Miss Kuamka herself.
"I was one of those chosen to be tapped, and it is truly an honor to be able to join an organization full of so many wonderful women," said White.
As part of the evening's festivities, the AACRC introduced a fundraising campaign. The goal is to raise $30,000 for 30 years of the AACRC.
The AACRC, while being a space for students of color, still serves to benefit the UC community as a whole.
"The AACRC serves as a place for Black students to feel safe and celebrated, offers non-Black students a way to educate themselves on the history of Black UC and additionally offers support to the surrounding Cincinnati community," explained White.
White emphasizes that the AACRC is a great way for students to get involved on campus and to meet a group of diverse students, unlike anywhere else. White wants more students to find the same home she has within the AACRC. Having a welcoming space to grow your identity on campus is an important factor for students to succeed in college.
"To me, the AACRC means family," said White. "Since the first day I entered the space my freshman year, I immediately felt welcomed, and I knew I had found a place on campus where I belong."