The Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center hosted “Coming Back Home” on Sunday Sept. 12. This event was to symbolize the collective efforts to reclaim both the literal and figurative space that is the Neal-Marshall and all that it represents for the Black community in Bloomington, according to the Neal-Marshall website.
Director of the Neal-Marshall, Gloria Howell, said it was important for the Neal-Marshall to have this program because it gives the Black IU community a place to enjoy again.
“We miss everybody,” Howell said. “We know that we have been away physically from the building, so this is a symbolic program to open the Neal-Marshall and all that it means to anyone who walks through these doors.”
She also shared her plans to make this a recurring event for the Neal-Marshall to welcome everyone to the space.
The program featured words from Black faculty, staff and student leaders. Monica Johnson, assistant vice president for diversity education and cross-cultural engagement, shared greetings for everyone.
“This feels like coming back home,” Johnson said. “It is an honor to be loved by this space. It is a blessing to have a place like this on campus for people to call home, because not a lot of people have the privilege of having this space at a predominantly white institution. Post-COVID, it is still home.”
The event recognized those who have passed on with a moment of silence. Those who were recognized were loved ones, Black celebrities and those who lost their lives due to police brutality and racially motivated crimes.
Maria Hamilton Abegunde, assistant professor for the African American African Diaspora Studies department, called for the audience to listen to the wind around them.
“The wind is the breath of our ancestors,” Abegunde said. “Home is the Neal-Marshall, the African American Arts Institute, and the African American African Diaspora Studies department. This is home to the spirit and it keeps us thriving. It is home to help keep mind, body and spirit together. When I enter this place, this is a place where past, present and future come together.”
Tislam Swift, a graduate student at Jacobs School of Music, and Jude Richardson, an undergraduate student, performed a rendition of “My Soul Has Been Anchored in the Lord.”
After the musical performance, students of the Black IU community shared their excitement about the reopening of the Neal-Marshall.
President of the IU chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., Ramatou Soumare, talked about what it means to be back at the Neal-Marshall.
“It is important to know that we are here now, where some weren’t able to make it thus far,” Soumare said. “We are here as a resource. Get out of your comfort zone and continue to show up. Do not forget the importance and history of the Neal-Marshall.”
During the event, Tiera Howleit and Joa’Quinn Griffin were honored for their initiative in creating the Black Lives Matter mural painted on the street in front of the Neal-Marshall. The mural served as a place of unity for a community that is filled with individuals of multicultural backgrounds.
This event was able to bring together a community that has not been able to see one other in person for some time. The event highlighted prominent Black students working on campus and paid respect to those who lost their lives over the past year and a half.
The next event at the Neal-Marshall will be Umoja Day on Sept. 17.
Editor’s note: Tiera Howleit is a staff member at the Indiana Daily Student.