Going to a PWI (Predominantly White Institution), it can be difficult finding spaces where you feel that your experiences as a Black student are prioritized. While there is always room for additions and improvements, I wanted to highlight some of the various spaces and student organizations that have helped me feel heard as a Black female student at UIUC. I also encourage you to comment any additional spaces or organizations not mentioned that have had a positive impact on your college experience at UIUC as a Black student!
Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center (BNAACC)
BNAACC is a beautiful new building that provides a space for Black students to hold events and meetings, do homework, create and practice artistic expression, and just hangout. The atmosphere of BNAACC is always welcoming, and it’s great to have a space on campus that encourages Black students to connect with each other. I have been to many events and organization meetings here, and there are countless events held at BNAACC throughout the entire school year, so be sure to keep a lookout!
Reaching Across Classes (RACs)
Reaching Across Classes is a student organization for racial minority freshman undergraduates that matches incoming freshmen with a mentor for their undergraduate (and life) experiences. RACs holds everything from social events, academic presentations, and study hours to informative events around campus life and transitioning into college.
RACs ensures that racial minority freshmen have someone guiding and supporting them through their freshman year to ensure that they have a successful college experience. I have had the opportunity to serve as a mentor this past year, and the feeling of actively uplifting students of color at UIUC is irreplaceable. Getting to know and assist the freshman class so intensely is super fun and very rewarding because you know that not only will their experience be easier than your own, but you’re also helping to build a family that will last way after our college years are over.
black femme collective
The black femme collective is not an official student organization but rather a group of Black femme-identifying folks and led by Black femmes who get together and talk about any and everything. It is a space for learning and unlearning that has brought immense joy to my life (and a lot of funny moments too!). We get together to talk about world events and life events, do homework, and even just have some good food and dance it out to our favorite music. Having the black femme collective as part of my life during college has provided me with a consistent safe space to be a Black femme and connect with other Black femmes at UIUC. It’s a space to be free.
The beauty of groups like the black femme collective is that they’re simple to create. Say you and a few of your friends want to have weekly hangouts where you decompress from the week and chat. You’ve got a group right there! Don’t undermine your unintentional or unofficial Black spaces or groups—those are just as important!
There are countless other student organizations at UIUC for Black students, and you can easily start your own! If you see a gap, don’t ever hesitate to be the person to fill it. The Black community as UIUC is close-knit and always advocating for more spaces and opportunities, so you will definitely find folks to build and create with along the way. Happy organizing!