Kevin Stiner | April 14, 2022
More Than Just a Room
The Joey Jackson Intercultural Center has provided a much-needed space for BIPOC students, while encouraging the celebration of culture and exploration of history.
In just one year since it opened its doors to SUNY Brockport students, the Joey Jackson Intercultural Center has been busy creating lasting experiences for Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) through events and partnerships across campus.
During that one-year period, the Center welcomed Will Walker as its Coordinator of Intercultural Engagement and Programs. He has directed several events throughout the school year and has partnered with many groups and departments.
“The goal of the Intercultural Center is to give our BIPOC students a space to congregate, relax, enjoy and to see other individuals like themselves in a space (Brockport) that is predominantly white,” said Walker. “We’re letting people know that you have a space, there are people like you on campus, come hang out, and don’t worry about switching codes.”
When the Joey Jackson Intercultural Center opened, it was intended to provide underrepresented students at the college a space to feel welcome, to take part in campus life, and to contribute to the college community. The Center has made great progress in this regard.
“From what I remember, the first time I went to the Intercultural Center I believe was for an Association for Latinx American Students (ALAS) event where they did tie dye activities and it was nice. Once I got to know Will more and more events were held up there I realized campus had a space for my people,” said Kadaijah Scott, a second-year journalism and broadcasting major.
The Center fosters an inclusive and supportive environment that inspires student engagement within SUNY Brockport’s community by nurturing friendships and cultivating bonds between students and faculty members.
“I grew up in a town that was not diverse at all, so being able to enjoy a safe space on campus as a student of color made me feel really seen as both a woman of color and a student on a Primarily White Institution (PWI),” shared Christina Trinh, a second-year sociology major. “I have met a lot of students who are now my friends, and I have also had many opportunities to get to know staff and faculty better at the events that are hosted at the Intercultural Center.”
“I was introduced to the center at the beginning of the fall semester. After watching the muralist’s creation on Brockport’s YouTube page, I waited in anticipation to see the space first-hand,” said Blake James, a third-year criminal justice major. “At first, when I asked students to join me in the center, many did not know the location or significance. However, after several weeks, I witnessed the attendance and utilization of the space grow. Now when I walk in, I find students operating the equipment, interacting, and feeling comfortable in a space meant for them.”
The Joey Jackson Intercultural Center has collaborated on a variety of programs with departments across campus. Nearly 100 students attended the Hispanic Heritage Celebration in October during a collaboration with the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and ALAS.
The event had different departments and student organizations sponsor different countries by developing trifolds to highlight their selected countries. People could learn interesting facts about each country represented while enjoying Hispanic dance lessons and delicious food from El Latino.
In February, the Center hosted an event focused on the Lunar New Year. It was educational while also including Southeast Asian games and prizes. Walker emphasized to students that the correlation between Lunar New Year and the Chinese New Year is a misconception because several other Asian countries celebrate the event too.
“It was nice to be able to get everyone together to celebrate a holiday I value a lot while also being able to educate others about the cultural aspects of the holiday,” explained Trinh. “Everyone who came was open to learning, and there was a good turnout as well.”
The month of March was dedicated to women’s history and the Center welcomed an event dedicated to women. The documentary “Cortland to Colorado” was shown, with several members of the 1980 national champion women’s soccer team in attendance.
The event celebrated the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking Title IX civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or education program that receives funding from the federal government. The Center found intersectionality with the discussion on the gender pay gap and how the problem is magnified with women of color.
The Center has also extended its influence beyond the walls of Brockport. During Spring Break, 18 students traveled to Atlanta with staff members to learn, connect and offer service. Students explored historical sites, met with a prominent civil rights activist, networked with Atlanta-based alumni, and volunteered at a variety of organizations including the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
“The encounter with the Rev. Dr. Albert Paul Brinson was the highlight of the Atlanta trip. It was a privilege to meet and speak with a living source of civil rights history, as well as a close colleague of the late great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,” James shared.
The service component was intended to thank the Atlanta community for their hospitality and history.
“The most rewarding part of the Atlanta trip was that I got to meet alums from SUNY Brockport who are in very high places and living lives that are rewarding. The best part was exploring Atlanta with other black student leaders and being able to volunteer for the first time. Having the opportunity to travel with friends and creating bonds on the trip was amazing and we were able to learn so much and help others while we were there,” explained Scott.
Thanks to gifts from donors and support from departments across campus, the trip cost just $50 for students.