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New Black Cultural Center opens at University of Idaho, with new director

U of I takes big strides to serve Black and African American students. A new director and a new center will help provide a safe space for Black students.

MOSCOW, Idaho — The University of Idaho has a long history of Black students coming together to create safe spaces for themselves. According to U of I’s Black History Research Lab, back in 1971, the Black Student Union’s Cultural Center (BSU) became the first Black student organization at the university.

Black Cultural Center’s Director Mario Pile says, “There has been a lot of Black students that have come to U of I and have pushed for a Black student union in different agendas and initiatives to provide space."

In 1973, BSU’s Cultural Center closed because of cold temperatures that damaged the building. After 50 years later, BSU has a new place to call home, U of I’s Black Cultural Center.

"There has never been a concrete space where students can go, so the center itself as a space is brand new,” said Pile.

But the victory does not end there. The University of Idaho also made history with their first-ever director for the Black Cultural Center, Mario Pile.

"It feels like a dream come true. Despite being here for almost 15 years, I've always wanted to serve Black and Brown students. Being able to serve college students who identify as Black, I'm just super elated,” said Pile.

Pile says about 1% of U of I’s population identify as Black. He says his goal is to reach out to more potential Black students so they can have the opportunity to enroll at the University of Idaho. He says he plans to take every student to the finish line, graduation. He also hopes this center can provide a safe space for existing and future students as they work their way through school.

“It's a safe enough space to you know and just come and kind of breath. I can just sit here in my kinky hair, in my dark skin, in my thick lips, or being biracial. Just a place where you can just 'breath' and say I don't have to answer to nobody, and I can just be myself,” said Pile.

Pile says that while there is still more work to be done for our Black community, this is a step in the right direction.

"We've been given nothing. We've earned civil rights, voting rights, just the right to exist has had to be fought with blood, sweat, and tears. And I think spaces like this finally recognize that struggle and tried to honor the struggle of our ancestors,” said Pile.

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