The Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, which is a haven for many Black students, has reopened its doors to welcome back the Black IU community after a year and a half of no in person events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Neal-Marshall had an open house on Monday Aug. 23 to welcome students back.
Gloria Howell, director of the Neal-Marshall center, spoke about what it means to have its doors open once again. Howell expressed how great it feels to see students make their way to Neal-Marshall.
“It’s almost like this weird mix of emotions with being overwhelmed,” Howell said. “Because we haven’t been together for, you know, a year and a half, but also excitement. Overall, I am very happy to see faces, it gives life to the Neal-Marshall.”
In 2002, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center was named after the first African American man and woman to graduate from IU, Marcellus Neal and Frances Marshall.
As the Neal-Marshall prepares for this upcoming semester, there will be a number of events and resources available. The Neal-Marshall Center first launched the Freshman Leadership Academy in 2016.
According to its Facebook page, the Freshman Leadership Academy is a leadership development program hosted by the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center for first-year, first-semester Black students. The academy is designed to help first year Black students with building a cohort of peers, connecting to the Neal-Marshall for involvement and support opportunities, engaging with the IU community and identifying and developing their leadership styles.
“This year, for the first time, we are offering the Leadership Academy to freshmen and sophomores, recognizing that many sophomores are still in transition because they weren’t on campus,” Howell said.
The deadline to apply for the academy is Sept. 3, and the first meeting will be in person on Sept. 13.
Returning students said they were looking forward to visiting the Neal-Marshall in person again.
“I am excited to see many students gather at a place at IU, being that this school is really big,” senior Escarvar Tatum said. “The Neal-Marshall is right here as a home and it allows for students to have a place where they feel they belong.”
Two incoming Ph.D. students, Daja Askew and Grace Sims, shared their feelings on seeing a space for Black students on campus for the first time.
“I am excited to see different events that will be held here,” Askew said. “And also learning more about Black history and how IU can better help its students to be more culturally aware.”
Sims shared that during her undergraduate and graduate programs, there were no spaces for Black students to congregate, so she is ecstatic to be at the Neal-Marshall.
“I am excited to see community and Blackness in all its shapes, ways and forms,” Sims said. “Blackness is not just one thing, it is a spectrum of beautifulness.”
Individuals in the Black IU community can come together for “Coming Home,” an event taking place Sept. 12 [at the Neal-Marshall]. Howell said this event will help the Black IU community reclaim the Neal-Marshall as home, once again.