FSU breaks ground for Black Student Union building
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
The significance of what was about to unfold as FSU administrators prepared to break ground for the construction of a new Black Student Union Building was uttered in one short sentence by Rashard Johnson.
“I’m just trying to soak in the moment right now,” Johnson, president of BSU, said in front of a large audience gathered in the parking lot on Jefferson Street, where a new state-of-the-art BSU building will be constructed.
The two-story, 5,600-square foot building is expected to be completed by this fall, according to FSU president John Thrasher. It will be built at the cost of $1.5 million, which came from government funding that was approved last year.
The old BSU, which sits off Woodward, was built long before the organization was formed in 1968. Thrasher credited a long list of FSU alums in government and the private sector that helped to move funding for the project through the state legislature. They included attorney and lobbyist Sean Pittman, congressman Al Lawson and Sen. Oscar Braynon.
Members of FSU’s National Black Alumni Association also praised the effort.
“This is tremendous for African American students, graduates, faculty and staff because it reflects the fact that the university respects the contributions of African Americans, providing a facility where Black students and others can get together,” said Freddie Groomes-McLendon, a FSU alum and former administrator. “They can have special programs to celebrate; an opportunity for them to get together for networking.
“This is a long day coming.”
Thrasher expressed the same sentiment, getting an “amen” from someone in the crowd.
Plans for the building have been on the drawing board for several years, but didn’t begin to move along in earnest until Thrasher met with alums and promised to deliver it.
“I hope it will serve as a visible reminder of Florida State’s commitment and I promise you that that commitment will stand steadfast, as long as I’m here,” Thrasher said. “This place will be a center for that.”
Some of the activities that will take place in the building include town hall meetings and things like a not-so serious game of cards, Johnson said. More than one speaker said they expect the building to become a place where long-lasting friendships are formed.
In addition to students’ activities, two professors in the African-American Studies program also will reside in the building.
“I’m happy to have fought for this,” said Braynon, who led the fight for the funding. “For me it was a fight of love.
“I feel very proud of what is happening here today. This is the beginning of what I think will be a great day for the Black students and Florida State in general.”
Eric Friall said he expects the building to be especially useful for freshmen students who he hopes will use it to get connected to Tallahassee. Going to the old building did just that when he came from Jacksonville to study at FSU in 1990.
“You’ll help them find where the churches are, where the barbershops are and navigate the community or they’re not going to be comfortable,” Friall said.
He said he envisioned the building being a sanctuary for all students on campus.
“This is where your roots are planted,” he said. “This is where your long-term relationships are started. This is where you crash out on the sofa.”