Orange Central is Syracuse University’s annual reunion and homecoming celebration, and this year’s festivities drew nearly 1,500 attendees from 48 states to campus to celebrate their love of Syracuse. The weekend featured reunion gatherings, the much-anticipated Alumni Awards Celebration, “Back…
‘I Feel at Home’: 119 Euclid Ave. Celebrates, Enhances the Black Student Experience on Campus
Home. Safe space. Welcoming. Inclusive.
Those are some of the words current students used to describe the atmosphere inside 119 Euclid Ave., which opened in September of 2021 as a space to celebrate the Black student experience on campus.
Featuring quiet spaces for studying, lounge spaces for hosting social gatherings and even a kitchen for serving up delicious meals, 119 Euclid Ave. (referred to as 119 Euclid) is open to all Syracuse University students.
The space was reimagined by Black students, faculty, staff and alumni to inspire Syracuse’s Black students and share Black culture with the greater campus community. Campus Planning, Design and Construction managed the project and transformed the space.
Located off Comstock Avenue at one entryway to the University, the building was conceptualized by Black students—from the inspirational quotes and the powerful works of art that adorn the walls to the comfortable and welcoming study areas, furniture and even the plants.
The result? 119 Euclid is a home-away-from-home on campus, a comfortable and welcoming space.
“I’m able to be Black and free, Black and open, Black and loud, and Black and different. I can express myself from my hair to my clothes, from my shoes to the way I speak. I might speak a little bit differently than how I speak in other spaces on campus because I feel comfortable enough to be my authentic self in this space,” says Karen Cooper, a first-year student from Orangeburg, South Carolina, studying communication and rhetorical studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
The space boasts a social lounge, two meeting rooms, a fully functioning kitchen, a large conference room, a quiet room and a reflection room dedicated to members of the Black community who lost their lives to violence. 119 Euclid is a place to build connections and celebrate the longstanding history, traditions and contributions of the Black community on campus.
“119 Euclid was transformed through the work of so many of our campus community. This space reflects an ideal setting for students to find community and greater understanding, and expands on campus spaces that enhance the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion,” says Vice President and Chief Facilities Officer Pete Sala.
The space has greatly enhanced the student experience, says Eboni Britt, executive director, strategic communications and initiatives in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
“This dedicated space was created for students to share their experiences, learn from each other, broaden their perspectives through historical context and support individual and collective successes while validating and uplifting the Black student experience. We’re constantly hearing from students how grateful they are for this space. It serves a great need while benefitting all students on campus, especially our Black students,” Britt says.
119 Euclid seeks to enhance the student experience by reinforcing Black culture across the African diaspora.
Once he stepped inside the building, Mamoudou Camara ’20, who is pursuing a master’s in public administration degree from the Maxwell School, felt right at home. Especially when he entered the kitchen and came across cans of Vimto soda, a creature comfort found in his parents’ native country of Guinea in West Africa.
During the 15 or so hours he spends weekly at 119 Euclid, Camara says he enjoys the art, the food and the cultural conversations he has with his friends.
“You can tell the students had everything to do with this place. 119 Euclid has become part of the Syracuse culture and students see the potential, and I can’t wait to see what they do with this place,” says Camara, who also earned bachelor’s degrees from Maxwell in policy studies and political science.
It can be difficult to make your way through college during normal times. Add in the COVID-19 pandemic and adjusting to life away from home became even trickier. That’s the situation Kaia Kirk found herself in when she enrolled in Maxwell’s Ph.D. program in political science.
Kirk began her Ph.D. program entirely virtual, taking online classes from her home in Georgia. After an isolating year online, one of Kirk’s major priorities was to find a sense of community when she finally came to campus for the Fall 2021 semester. 119 Euclid has given Kirk the space to find that community.
“It’s a safe space where you can chill, study and relax. After a long day of classes at Maxwell, I come here to unwind and socialize with other Black students on campus. So far, I’ve enjoyed game nights, karaoke, binging TV shows and movies, and indulging in some good home-cooked meals made by students,” says Kirk, who attended the block party commemorating 119 Euclid’s grand opening last fall.
While the space was designed to highlight and celebrate the Black student experience, Camara is quick to point out that all students, regardless of their ethnicity, are welcome at 119 Euclid.
“That’s where the confusion comes from. A lot of people think this is only for Black people, but 119 is for everyone to celebrate the Black experience and what it’s like to be Black. The artwork, the music, the vernacular, the words we use, the slang we use and the culture. If you really want to get a sense of that, this is a perfect place to do so,” says Camara.
Since opening, 119 Euclid has hosted cultural conversations, a book club, a Trap and Paint event celebrating art and music during Black History Month, game nights, a Super Bowl party and more.
The space is also intentional about connecting students to Black faculty and staff as well as providing them with information on how to better navigate campus and its resources.
Hunter Kusak is the child of biracial parents, born to a white mother and a Black father. Knowing the importance of bonding with both sides of their heritage, Kusak’s mother tried to immerse them in Black culture, but without a strong influence from their father, Kusak says they didn’t truly connect with their cultural identity until they first entered 119 Euclid Ave.
“It’s really cool to find access to a community I never really knew before,” says Kusak, a sophomore studying public health in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics. “There’s such a strong sense of community that we find in this space, and I am fortunate to meet new people and make new friends every day.”