Grace’s Place opens with a focus on fellowship and inclusivity
Kyle ‘Paco’ Parker, the founder and CEO of ClipDart, an on-demand barber service for Black and Brown customers, was invited to give a presentation about Black entrepreneurship. For Black and Brown communities, barbershops are safe spaces where generations have shared their stories and unpacked their struggles. Fifty students were given free haircuts from some of the nation’s top barbers in the safe space created.
“The idea behind inviting Parker was to not only engage students in advocating for their needs but also to show them how to use their skills to organize and amplify their efforts to center their wellness,” says Dr. Atiera Coleman, the associate director of Student Success, Equity and Community (SSEC).
In the same vein, Daksha Howard, SSEC program coordinator who has worked at Beloit College for 21 years says, “I have never seen Black students that happy. It had nothing to do with academics and it had nothing to do with what the college could do for them. They were in their element because they were in a place where they felt like they truly belonged.”
Black Students United (BSU) members are using Grace’s Place to invite Black alumni and professionals to do workshops, Soulful Sundays, BIPOC town hall sessions, movie nights, and celebrations.
“The overall goal for Grace’s Place is to create a safe space for Black students, promote awareness on issues that affect Black communities, and build a sense of community on campus among Black students and other students of color. The process of using the space is still in the works but the goal is to center Black experience and Black joy,” says Yolanda Odufuwa, a BSU executive board member.
Grace’s Place will be used for different kinds of programming activities that allow BIPOC students to let off some steam such as mental health programming, more haircuts, open mic nights, etc.
Coleman said students are grateful to have a space, to be meeting in person, and to create community after a year of isolation. “Prospective students have the opportunity to be a part of a campus culture that fosters community and belonging for all from their very first step on campus,” she said.
BSU President Jada Daniels agreed. “We just really want Grace’s Place to be an educational, safe, fun, friendly, and inclusive environment and I think we’ll do whatever it takes to maintain that.”