Open house and dedication of the Portlock Black Cultural Center unites community in November
By Imane Halal ’23
Alumni, faculty, staff, and students joined together to celebrate the dedication of the Portlock Black Cultural Center during Rivalry weekend in November. During the two-day event, members of the Lafayette community gathered to honor the presence of the monumental space. Students and alumni mingled, sharing memories and a sense of understanding and connection as chatter and communal joy filled the vibrant walls of Portlock Black Cultural Center.
The dedication, which took place on Nov. 19 opened with a beautiful student performance by Ednetta Fullmore ’23, followed by opening remarks by Rob Young ’13, director of intercultural development. Young introduced the many community members who played a pivotal role in the event coming together. Young acknowledged President Nicole Hurd, many staff members, and the residents of the Portlock Black Cultural Center, including Jose Bencosme Peña ’24, Ryan Rodriguez ’25, Marcus Alston ’24, as well Jermaine Grant ’25, the ABC archivist who curated unique pieces from the archives collection for the dedication.
Marc Portlock ’24 helped coordinate the event and connect the Lafayette community with the Portlock family. His efforts embody the legacy of his grandfather, reminding us and connecting us to what this house means and why his family continues to support and love Lafayette College.
Another phenomenal speaker at the dedication was Larry Lenon ’71, co-founder of the Association of Black Collegians (ABC) and one of the contributing writers of the Black Manifesto. Lenon explained that Marc Portlock’s remarks remind us of the impact of David A Portlock and what happened when students came together and mobilized. As he closed his speech, he left us with something to ponder, stating, “And well, I have to say to you all just keep on keepin’ on. It has always been a struggle. It will always be a struggle. But we will hold on to it.”
President Hurd’s remarks beautifully encapsulated the essence of Portlock as a remarkable space. She opened her remarks by reminding us that Portlock is sacred–reminiscent of the strife and hardship that students of color have endured on this campus. It is also a moment for us to recognize what this space means and what it will continue to mean for generations.
The dedication was closed with an African libation facilitated by retired Professor Rexford Ahene, who has served as a mentor and support system for many students of color. Professor Ahene blessed the space. A beautiful honor of what Portlock has meant for the past generation of students and what it will continue to stand for and symbolize in the future.
The dedication brought together community members from across generations and from across the country to rejoice. The dedication was not only sacred and monumental; it was heartwarming. The event perfectly captured the legacy of David A. Portlock and the legacies of students who worked hard to be heard and to be seen, and so at that moment, the air was filled with love and, most importantly, joy. It is not a moment that can be captured in words or pictures but is an experience that was so profoundly moving that there was a feeling that churned inside you, for it was a beautiful and undeniably historical moment.