|"30 Years of History"|
BLACK CULTURAL CENTER
Conney M. Kimbo
An American educator and leader in multicultural affairs and black culture, Conney M. Kimbo was Dean of Student Affairs at Grinnell College from 1970 to 1973; Dean of Student Affairs at the University of Missouri-St. Louis from 1973 to 1979; and Vice-President for Student Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh from 1979 to 1989. Dean Kimbo died in Pittsburgh on April 13, 1989, at the age of 56.
A veteran on the U.S. Army, he received his B.A. degree in English and physical education, and the M.A. degree in health education at Indiana University. He then studied at the University of Iowa where he earned a doctorate in educational administration.
Dean Kimbo was a teacher and coach at Gary, Indiana, before being named an Assistant Professor of Physical Education at Grinnell. He was appointed Associate Dean of Student Affairs in 1970. He served at Grinnell until 1973.
A private collector of art and active patron of the arts, Dean Kimbo was an acknowledged expert on African art and the work of American black artists. In October of 1989, as a tribute to Dean Kimbo's contributions to black culture, the University of Pittsburgh held a juried exhibition of the work of Pittsburgh black artists.
Dean Kimbo's contributions to the fostering of the multicultural community at the University of Pittsburgh earned him a posthumous University of Pittsburgh Award for Affirmative Action, and his work in the wider community was recognized by the granting of the Peoplehood Award to him by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
History of the Black Cultural Center
The Black Cultural Center (BCC) is a significant part of Grinnell's rich and complex history. In 1969, during the tumultuous climate of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Grinnell's black students, empowered by the social movements that were taking place throughout the United States, submitted a proposal to the Board of Trustees that listed several areas that they wished to see improved for the advancement of the quality of campus life for black students. Concerned Black Students (CBS), an organization pioneered in 1967, asked that a Black Student Center be built with the intent to educate and preserve black culture and history for the Grinnell College community. The request was honored in September, 1969, as part of the platform submitted to the Board of Trustees.
The BCC is testament to the hard work and dedication of Grinnell's black students to social change and improvement in the era of civil rights. the BCC is both a real-life and symbolic representation of what was then and continues to be CBS's commitment to the ideas of black pride and self-confidence. A library containing numerous volumes of work in black culture and history is housed in the BCC to ensure that students are able to continue the project that was first envisioned by CBS in 1969. Numerous artistic displays, seminars, and discussion groups focused on people of African descent throughout the diaspora have been held at the BCC with the purpose of sharing a vast and intricate part of a people's interconnected existence with the college community. Traditionally, the center is monitored by two students. These students live in residence, help plan events, and are responsible for the maintenance of artifacts kept at the house. Karen Wooldridge and Pat Baird were the original caretakers of the house (altho ugh not its first occupants) and the tradition continues today with Kwame Nti-Addae and Joseph Nelson. "The House," as it is affectionately called by members of the Grinnell College community, continues to play a part in the lives of students.
Today, 30 years later, the BCC continues its work in the original spirit of its student founders. It is the site of an ever-expanding black library, and continues to be the primary location of events dedicated to the celebration of black people, their culture and history. The BCC has opened its doors to collaborate with academic departments and other student organizations to educate the campus on issues of diversity and multiculturalism. Over the years, the BCC has undergone numerous renovations and was updated with computer facilities to accommodate the "technical revolution." In the summer of 1999, Sherman P. Willis, spokesperson of CBS for 1998-1999, was instrumental in organizing extensive renovations. The renovations resulted in implementation of a new exterior design and equipment layout. The BCC will continue to be a part of the progressive and prosperous history of Grinnell College.