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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Campus Guide ’17: Renovations at Martin Luther King Jr. Building give students sense of home

Selena Quintanilla

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center, located on Second Street and Mountain Avenue, houses the African American Student Association. Renovations to the African American Student Services office were completed this summer.

Last semester, African American Student Affairs celebrated 25 years of supporting UA students throughout its academic careers. This semester, AASA will resume its role in the newly renovated interior of the Martin Luther King Jr. building on Second Street and Mountain Avenue. The staff had a soft-opening on May 3 for the UA community to see the completed work.

The AASA office was given more space, a new kitchen, a quiet study area and an activity area. The renovation will help continue the mission stated on its website: “[T]o facilitate a support system that helps students achieve academic excellence and an enriching African American cultural experience at the UA.”

Ray Ray Lambeth, lead student worker at the AASA, said that representatives have been active with recruiting.

“We’ve done a lot of recruitment as far as sitting in on student orientations all through May [and] June, and we still have more things to do in August,” she said. “The freshmen class that came in this year is huge and we have pages and pages full of students that signed up and came to our table and said, ‘I want to be a part of AASA, what do you guys do?’”

In January, Kimberly “KC” Williams began her first semester as AASA director alongside the UA while it continues its commitment to a more diverse community. Students have given their support to her role in the affairs department.

“She’s been doing a great job,” Lambeth said. “She came in … and now we’re all pushing on the same foot and the same page.”

RELATED: Campus Guide ’17: Discover the communities of the UA cultural centers

Williams said the new center is a place where students can come to find encouragement and learn what the AASA is doing within the community. 

“I encourage especially the black students on campus to come through and see who we are and see what we are about,” Williams said. “We are here for you; this can be your home away from home and you may not need us all the time, but when you do we’re going to be here.”

Currently, the Black Student Union works collectively with other cultural center groups to get additional staff to help in each center.

“We are pleased to announce as the result of the advocacy and activism of the Black Student Union and the Marginalized Students of the University of Arizona, the six cultural and resource Centers at [the] UA have received funding for additional staff,” the group announced to its Facebook community.

Thanks to additional funding, the AASA recently hired Zachary Brown as its new coordinator and will also be operating this semester anticipating new UA President Robert C. Robbins and the administration’s support. Lambeth highlighted one way to increase support for the cultural centers.

RELATED: Campus Guide ’17: Hillel Foundation offers Jewish take on home away from home for students

“If a student comes to UA and asks for a tour and set it up, the tours don’t show the cultural centers, and because the school is trying to promote diversity, you must show these things so these students who are diverse feel like they have somewhere to go.”

Lambeth said some of the demands like the renovations and the new staff for all the cultural centers have been met, but there is still more to do.

According to its website, the AASA is a place where students can come to eat, play video games, rest, pray and hang out with others in one central location.

“We have flat-screen TVs, we got a kitchen so if they don’t have any food or money to buy anything we have food here so if they need anything regardless,” Lambeth said. “And just the vibe when you come in, it’s like a family vibe so when you come in we’re cracking jokes, we’re talking about critical conversations that need to be discussed.”

She said the space is a safe haven for students. Previously, students within the AASA have participated in activism events, like getting involved in the Black Lives Matter movement and inviting speakers like author Bell Hooks to come to campus and speak to students in late April. 

This upcoming Fall semester will feature new local events, starting with an open house for the UA community on August 30.

Follow Shaq Davis on  Twitter.

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