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ABCC: An Idea Born Out of Frustration

ABCC: An Idea Born Out of Frustration

Dr. Fred Hord, founder of the Association of Black Culture Centers (ABCC), like many of his mentors, has spent almost his entire life advocating racial justice in the streets and Black intellectual prowess in the classroom.
So no one was particularly surprised when in 1987, Hord, then the director of the Center for Black Culture and Research at West Virginia University, introduced the idea of creating an organization made up of Black cultural center directors. He first presented the idea at an American Council on Education conference in Washington.
“I received an enthusiastic response,” Hord remembers. “A lot of people just came up after the fact and said, ‘Wow, how did you get to this place?’ And I said, ‘It just came out of frustration.’ “
Frustration is a recurring theme for many Black cultural center directors. So it seems appropriate that it was a catalyst for the organization’s start. At the time, Hord was frustrated that he didn’t know many of his colleagues and there were few alternatives for him to begin long-term networking with them.
His vision became a reality in 1989, when what would become the ABCC held a conference in Galesburg, Ill., where Hord had become chairman of the Black Studies department at Knox College, a small private school of approximately 1,200 students. Since then, the group has had 11 annual conferences and has grown to include 700 affiliate members in 49 states. Last year, the organization developed its first international site at the University of the West Indies-Jamaica, and plans are under way to establish a site at the University of Ghana at Legon.
“It is an understatement to really quantify the value of the ABCC,” says Oyibo H. Afoaku, an ABCC member and director of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center at Indiana University at Bloomington.
“It’s awesome. It’s one of those organizations that bring Black people together,” Afoaku added. “Every year we go to a conference. We needed it, and I’m glad it’s here.”
The mission of ABCC is to “reclaim, critique and perpetuate the core culture of people of African descent” through colleges’ and universities’ Black cultural and multicultural centers and surrounding communities.
In 1994, Knox College, at the urging of the college president, became the national headquarters for ABCC, helping to subsidize some of the $80,000 annual operating costs of the organization. Knox College, known for supporting the abolitionists who opposed American slavery in the mid-1800s, pays salaries for two administrative assistants.
The ABCC’s Web site, <>, is connected to the Advanced Technology Center of the University of Missouri-Columbia. It offers Web links to 150 Black and multicultural centers, and huge bibliographical lists on Black history and culture.
The organization runs a well-organized Speaker’s Bureau with dozens of highly recognized Black scholars, such as Haki Madhubuti, founder and publisher of Third World Press. ABCC offers its affiliate members 20 percent to 50 percent discounts on bureau speakers.
Its most ambitious goal is to soon become the national accrediting body for both Black and multicultural centers. The idea is to create acceptable standards, pulling from the most successful cultural centers in the country, that will ensure the quality of the centers. Some of the proposed criteria include: the size of the facility; the number of staff and their educational background; the operating budget; the support of the university; and the relationship with the local community.
“We want to become the primary accrediting agency,” Hord says.
At ABCC’s annual board meeting March 15 at Indiana State University, the organization’s 21-member board is scheduled to vote to approve the accreditation standards. The standards are modeled after those from the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities, the college accrediting body for 19 states in the North Central region of the United States.
Hord says the board must also determine whether it will seek the “stamp of approval” from the North Central Association, a move that some say will legitimize the ABCC’s accrediting process.
“Some people say we don’t need them to find legitimacy,” Hord says. “And I agree with that, but I’m also a realist.”  

— By David Hefner

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