The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Portlock Black Cultural Center open after second relocation

The Portlock Black Cultural Center was re-dedicated on Saturday in front of an audience of a a few dozen. (Photo courtesy of Lafayette College Flickr)

After a $1 million renovation and a move down the street from its most recent location, the Portlock Black Cultural Center opened once more last Friday with an open house. The center was then rededicated on Saturday at an outdoor ceremony featuring students, faculty and alumni.

The new house, located at 41 McCartney Street, features a seminar room that serves as a library, three bedrooms, furnishings from Black-owned businesses and brands, a 400 square-foot rear patio for social events and art made by Lafayette students. The house serves as a space for community events and for Black students to gather. 

“It’s well done, well put together,” Mikias Stewart ‘23, who attended the open house, said. “It kind of reminds me of home a little bit, like growing up in Africa.”

The center was founded as the Malcolm X Liberation Center in 1970 and renamed the Portlock Black Cultural Center in 1999 for the late David A. Portlock.

Portlock, who was the assistant dean of academics, created the Black Cultural Center and the Association of Black Collegians (ABC). He also played other large roles in developing diversity and inclusion on campus.

David A. Portlock was a pioneer in promoting diversity at Lafayette. (Photo by Jenny Davis)

After multiple relocations, students and staff are excited about the new home of the Portlock Black Cultural Center. 

“I’m … here because being an employee that is African American, I just wanted to see what’s on campus for us and [something] we can identify with,” assistant director of compliance Dahne Brown-Boyer said. “[It’s important] just to feel safe, knowing that they have space to be together, but also [to] make it their own.”

The center’s original location was on a part of the space now occupied by Fairnon College Center. In 1990, it was relocated to 101 McCartney Street, and in 2021, a house designed by class of 1883 alum Wiliam Marsh Michler, then located at 517 Clinton Terrace, was selected to be the new home of the center. The 330-ton building was lifted and moved to 41 McCartney Street, left intact to preserve its historic design.

“This [space] will allow us to express ourselves, who we are,” Stewart said. “It’s a space for African Americans to get together and just learn about each other.”

Matwos Tadesse ’24, an ABC co-president, wrote in an email that the new Black Cultural Center “demonstrates the tenacity of our Black students.”

“Portlock was built as a safe space for Black students on campus and we hope it continues to serve as such as well as a hub for community building,” Tadesse wrote. “I am overjoyed that the donors recognized the space’s importance and provided us with a permanent home. I hope to see members of our community visit the house and learn about Lafayette College’s history with Black students.”

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Jenny Davis, Staff News Writer

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