Black Wednesdays are the most powerful and momentous displays of black culture at UC Berkeley.
Historically, Black “Wednesday” used to occur on Upper Sproul every single day of the week at noon when Cal’s black community comprised of 13% of the student body. However, due to a lack of affirmative action and Prop 209, the black population has now been cut down to a mere 3% of the student body. I had the pleasure and honor of speaking to members of the black community to whom I asked one question which led to diverse but unifying answers:
What does Black Wednesdays mean to you?
“Black Wednesday is a space created for black students every Wednesday from 12-2 p.m. as a coping mechanism for being less than 3% here on campus. Black students could go all day - go to lectures as large as 300 - and literally be the only black student in class or in discussion. Walking on campus, people feel invisible.”- Nicholas Ross
“It’s black joy. Despite everything going on in this campus and a campus that continuously tells students that they don’t belong, it is literally the embodiment of black joy. It is the embodiment of community, resilience, strength, and being able to overcome anything.” - Anonymous
“Black Wednesdays is a way I can stay connected, help other people, and meet life long friends. It’s really important because I feel alone sometimes here on campus. I walk and I’m like the only black person in my class and it’s great to see other black students because you understand them and connect with them on a different level.” - Ashley Caldwell
“It means community. It means peace. It means calm. It means goodness. It represents how we’re able to come around together, build each other up, and come up with a program like this where we can represent ourselves in front of a community.” - Anonymous
“With so few black students on campus it’s nice to congregate and celebrate being black at Berkeley. I could go a day without seeing a single black person unless I’m trying to hang out with them. But here, it’s nice. “- Chioma Uba
“I think with black culture one of the biggest things we manage to do is foster a community. We have that sense of unity and understanding within one another because sometimes other people might not understand our struggle. So I feel like Black Wednesday definitely creates that sense of unity.” – Anonymous
“They’re an opportunity for the community to get together. It’s something you know is going to happen. It’s something you can look forward to. Like every semester, I don’t have class from 12-2 pm on Wednesdays because I know black Wednesday’s going to happen. It represents [black culture] pretty well. We get together. We get loud. We dance a little bit. There’s music.”- Amir Wright
“It’s what I signed up for- the black community. UC Berkeley is anti-black as f**k and this is the only place I can be who I want to be. I feel safe.” – Anonymous
“I feel like it’s nice to have this space where people come together and love on each other. Sometimes when you see people around campus, you don’t say “hi” so the whole point of being black in areas where you don’t see other black people is like extending love which is a representation of culture and the music and stuff. I feel really blessed [being part of the black community at Cal]. If the black community at Cal wasn’t so strong I don’t know if I’d continue to go here because it’s just kind of hard being in a place where no one’s really like you all the time.” – Kamryn Lanier
Special thanks to Ashley Caldwell, AASD at Cal, and Priyanka Karthikeyan for the photography.
About the Author: Manooshree Patel