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Recently Opened Resource Center Gives Black Cal Students Hope

BERKELEY (CBS SF) -- The racially charged run-ins a recent UC Berkeley graduate experienced at Cal are inspiring the Black Student Union on campus to fight back.

In 2016, the racial divide remains a harsh reality at the UC Berkeley campus. Black students make up only three percent of the population. Recent grad Blake Simons told CBS SF about some of the racist run-ins he faced while attending the school.

"From having the n-word carved in on my dorm wall as a freshman to having professors openly use the n-word," said Simons. "I mean, you could walk throughout the campus a day and not see a single black face."

Just over a year ago, Berkeley's Black Student Union started fighting for changes. There were rallies and a list of demands.

In the last month, the group had a breakthrough. The chancellor agreed to turn the Hearst Annex -- a cluster of small bungalows -- into the Fanny Lou Hamer Resource Center For Black Students.

It doesn't look like much, but the black student union says this is the culmination of years of lobbying. They have been able to create a space where black students can meet, organize, socialize and -- above all -- feel safe.

"It's really hard to institutionalize support for black students when there's no designated space for us," said Gabrielle Shuman, the former chair of the Black Student Union.

Shuman says black students have among the lowest retention rates of any group on campus.

The resource center could be the difference between a student finding fellowship or dropping out. And it's just the beginning.

"We still have a long way to go, definitely," said Simons. "You know, I hope to come back here in four or five years and see a bunch of black students in the resource center. Black students not dropping out as much, black students being supported."

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