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LSU Women's Center and African American Cultural Center hold ribbon-cutting ceremonies

"Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi," which is an African proverb that is translated from the Akan language of Ghana to, "it is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten." It is this spirit of "sankofa" that joins the past with the present in the ongoing quest for knowledge.

On Thursday, May 2, LSU officials cut the ribbon on the new, expanded LSU Women's Center.

LSU Women's Center Director Summer Steib welcomed a packed house to the new facility and discussed the many programs the center offers to students, faculty and staff.

During her keynote address, Elaine Abell, LSU's first elected female Student Government president, discussed the many ways that the university has changed for women since her days as a student in the 1960s.

The LSU Women's Center is involved in several programs, including the Take Back the Night candlelight vigil and march, Women's History Month programming and the Esprit de Femme Awards.

On Friday, May 3, LSU officials cut the ribbon on the new, expanded LSU African American Cultural Center.

Donald Cravins Jr. was the keynote speaker at the African American Cultural Center ribbon-cutting ceremony and honored many of LSU's African-American leaders from throughout the university's history.

A libation ceremony was performed by Nomzamo Iyanu while Ipiama "Mama Ama" Kwan played a djembe drum during the African American Cultural Center's ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The LSU African American Cultural Center hosts a variety of programs, including the Multicultural Student Leadership Conference, the Black History Month Celebration, the Robing Ceremony and Pre-Kwanzaa.
JIm Zietz/LSU University Relations

Last week, the LSU Women's Center and African American Cultural Center held ribbon-cutting ceremonies to officially open their new facilities at Union Square along Raphael Semmes Road. Located on the historical sites of the previous centers, which was blessed as part of a Sherehe Ya Kuanzisha – an African ground blessing ceremony – in 2011, the new facilities build on the history of those who paved the way for the establishment of both centers on LSU's campus.

"These facilities are built on sacred ground and provides a link between LSU's history and the LSU community of today," said Katrice Albert, vice provost for Equity, Diversity & Community Outreach, or EDCO, at LSU.

With the opening of these new facilities, LSU has provided its students, faculty and staff, and the Baton Rouge community with a tangible illustration of the university's ongoing commitment to diversity.

LSU Women's Center

On Thursday, May 2, the LSU Women's Center officially cut the ribbon in its new 5,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, which will provide an expanded library to provide visitors with greater resources related to gender and women's issues, and enhanced programming with increased classroom space.

Among those who addressed the crowd at the ceremony were Albert, who acknowledged the many women who broke barriers at LSU including Helen Carter, for whom the previous Women's Center facility was named, and LSU Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost Stuart Bell, who discussed how the Women's Center has transformed the lives of many of LSU's students and proclaimed that the brightest days for the Women's Center are yet to come.

"We stand on the shoulder of the torchbearers who came before us," said Albert. "Can you imagine how proud they are of this day?"

During her keynote address, Elaine Abell, LSU's first elected female Student Government president, spoke about many of the changes for women at LSU since her time as a student in the early 1960s. The younger women in the crowd snickered when she talked about being forbidden from wearing pants on campus, or 10 p.m. curfew and bed checks in the dorms, and signs reminding students that they were prohibited from showing any outward displays of affection. She also spoke with pleasure at seeing more high-ranking women on campus and the role that technology has played in helping women succeed.

"It is no longer an oddity to see women in positions of authority," said Abell. "Technology has allowed people to work from anywhere and at anytime. This flexibility has given women even more opportunities to the workplace."

Racheal Hebert, a member of the Women's Center Expansion Core Committee, spoke about how the Women's Center enabled her to be herself and how important it was for her voice to be heard, especially when it came to the new Women's Center.

"When I arrived on campus, I knew I was a feminist," said Hebert. "And when I walked into the Women's Center, I knew this was my place. I was scared at the thought of the renovation, but was pleased that EDCO listened to what the students wanted and thank them for making this place a reality."

Min Kang, an MFA student at LSU, delivered her original poem, "double binds," written especially for the Women's Center ribbon-cutting ceremony.

LSU Women's Center Director Summer Steib thanked everyone who helped guide the center's expansion from the Helen Carter House to the temporary space at Hatcher Hall to the new facility, which quadrupled the size of the original center.

"A small group can change the world," said Steib. "LSU is among an elite group of universities with a free-standing and staffed Women's Center on campus."

The LSU Women's Center provides support, referral and information to students, faculty and staff on issues and concerns related to women. The center also promotes the advancement of women's issues and well-being through its services, educational programs and advocacy efforts.

Throughout the year, the LSU Women's Center is involved in several signature programs and initiatives, including the annual Take Back the Night candlelight vigil and march, Women's History Month programming, the Esprit de Femme Awards, the Women's Transition to Work series and the Healthy Masculinity Initiative.

For information about the LSU Women's Center, or to find out more about donating to the new LSU Women's Center and a variety of naming opportunities, contact Steib at summers@lsu.edu or 225-578-7563, or visit www.lsu.edu/wc.

LSU African American Cultural Center

On Friday, May 3, the LSU African American Cultural Center cut the ribbon to officially open its new 5,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, which will provide a meeting and conference space, access to a cultural library, a cultural and artifact tour, internet and wireless access and equipment rental.

The ceremony included several addresses, as well as a musical drum prelude by Ipiama "Mama Ama" Kwan and a libation by Nomzamo Iyanu.

The original LSU African American Cultural Center was dedicated on Jan. 17, 1993, on Raphael Semmes Road in the same location as the new African American Cultural Center. The original center replaced the Harambeé House, the first meeting place specifically for African-American students that was founded in 1972 and located in the old Christian Science building.

"There has been 20 years of hard work that have brought us to this day," said Albert. She then went on to quote Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt from the speech he gave at the dedication of his library in New York in 1941, "To bring together the records of the past and to house them in buildings where they will be preserved for the use of men and women in the future, a nation must believe in three things. It must believe in the past.
It must believe in the future. It must, above all, believe in the capacity of its own people so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future."

One of LSU's graduating seniors, Myranda Adams, addressed the crowd about the importance of discovering the African American Cultural Center at the end of her freshman year and the role that played in returning to LSU as a sophomore after spending nearly her entire freshman year wanting to leave LSU. She also spoke about the influence LaKeitha Poole, coordinator of African American Student Affairs, and Niya Blair, who previously held that position, played in her development at LSU.

"Being connected to the African American Cultural Center and the Black Student Union is what kept me at LSU," said Adams. "It's what let me grow as a student and as a leader. I charge students with the task of spreading the message of unity from the center to other students around campus."

Giving the keynote address, Donald R. Cravins Jr., an LSU alumnus and chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, talked about some of the prominent African-American faculty, administrators and students who paved the way for his success and for African-Americans on campus today, and how the current and future students have to share their culture with others on campus.

"We made the African American Cultural Center home, but it was time for something better," said Cravins. "I'm proud to be standing in something that is better. We now begin a new chapter for the African American Cultural Center on LSU's campus. Culture is the single-most important aspect of people and something that we need to share."

The primary goal of the LSU African American Cultural Center is to educate students, faculty and staff about the history, culture and the contributions of African-Americans. In doing so, the center strives to help the LSU family develop a better knowledge and understanding of the African-American experience.

"The African culture teaches that community is one its the key values," said Chaunda Allen, director of the LSU Office of Multicultural Affairs. "The community and the people this space. The African American Cultural Center is home."

Throughout the year, the LSU African American Cultural Center hosts a variety of programs, including Umoja, a welcome event for freshmen and transfer students; the Multicultural Student Leadership Conference, where students explore the role of leadership within the framework of diversity; the Black History Month Celebration, which includes events and nationally recognized guest speakers and performers; the Robing Ceremony, which honors undergraduate and graduate students who complete their college careers at LSU; the Juneteenth Celebration, which observes the freedom of African slaves in the United States; and Pre-Kwanzaa, a ceremony to celebrate the traditional African values of family, community, responsibility, commerce and self-improvement.

For information about the LSU African American Cultural Center, contact Poole at lpoole2@lsu.edu or 225-578-1627, or visit www.lsu.edu/aacc.