By, Zulema Herrera
About two months ago, Tekita Bankhead assumed the position as the new director of the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center. The transition, a homecoming, due to her previous experience at the center years prior.
On Jan.25, Bankhead replaced then interim director, Jazmyne Kellogg. The director before her was Nathan Stephens who served from 2017 until last spring. With the growing interest to become an educator, he left BNAACC to start his new job as a professor in the School of Social Work at Illinois State University in Sept. 2020.
“My job would be to teach students how to be good social workers but then at the same time also research some of the work I am doing in the community that is similar to what I received as a kid,” said Stephens, “Just to do that and not have to worry about administration stuff, I couldn’t pass that up”
Filling his role, Bankhead has already been deeply involved with the campus community. She was previously a Specialist in Education at the counseling center at UIUC and had worked at BNAACC as the Assistant Director. She credits her familiarity with the center as making it an easeful transition.
“Since BNAACC was the position that brought me to Illinois in 2015” said Bankhead, “ it felt like a natural fit to return to a place that had provided such a transformational professional experience for me.”
Krista Taylor, graduate student in psychology, was an intern at BNAACC and most recently worked under interim director Kellogg until she graduated in Dec. 2020. She said the pandemic forced them to make difficult changes to their whole platform in order to sustain the progress by the previous director, Stephens. However, she says it is important to make the effort because of the positive impact the center has on the students.
“I fully expect for that center(BNAACC) to thrive in the future, it is a space that is needed to feel safe and included” said Taylor, “There is not a whole lot of Black and Brown students at the University so when you have a spaces that not only you can feel safe, you can feel comfort but you also still feel a part of community and involvement on the campus, you really need to protect it.”
Since the pandemic, the center moved their programs online which include mental health workshops, guest speakers, and more. They also provide free meal tickets which can be picked up at the house at select times. Bankhead says their endurance is thanks to all the help from the campus community.
“I’m proud that our incredible staff and students have adapted in truly innovative ways to ensure that our programming and services have continued through these unprecedented times” said Bankhead, “We have been able to support each other as well as the campus at large, another testament that our cultural and resource centers are doing what we do best…responding to the needs of our students.”
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