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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee officially ushered in a new era of campus diversity with a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new Black Cultural Center.

A crowd of about 300 attended the festive event, which included food, music, dancers, a tour of the facility and comments from UT administrators, faculty, staff and students.

Dr. Loren Crabtree, UT vice president and provost, said the center expresses UT’s quest to be a leader in advancing the cause of diversity and cultural pluralism in the community and the region.

“My mind returns to Martin Luther King and his great dream for America to live together in harmony, celebrate our cultural, ethnic and racial differences, and recognize all the different threads that make up the fabric of American life,” Crabtree said.

“We have a dream as well here at UT and this building exemplifies it; a dream of equality of opportunity, of a level playing field and the demolition of glass ceilings in our society.”

Dr. Jane Redmond, assistant vice provost for student affairs, said the theme of the dedication event was “Continuing the Journey.”

“While the planning for this new project started about four year ago, UT has had a black cultural center for the past 25 years,” Redmond said. “‘Continuing the Journey’ summarizes the University of Tennessee’s commitment to highlighting the importance of African American history, culture and heritage.”

A ground-breaking was held for the 13,700 square-foot center March 27, 2001.

One of the building’s unique features highlighted Friday was an original sculptured brick frieze, which features widely recognized historical figures and chronicles the journey of African-Americans. Redmond said the 80-foot frieze is an unprecedented architectural showpiece at the University of Tennessee.

Another distinctive feature is the ceramic inlaid tile floor that depicts the continent of Africa and highlights prominent symbols of its respective countries, she said.

The center houses a library-reading room, state of the art computer lab, student lounge, multi-purpose rooms, student organization suite, conference room, tutorial suites and administrative offices.

It also headquarters UT’s office of Minority Student Affairs, which coordinates academic support programs, leadership opportunities, and workshops for all UT students on a variety of academic, intellectual and social topics.

Redmond said the new center has received an exceptionally warm reception in its first few weeks of existence, and it already has hosted several events this fall.

Those gatherings include an open house, a freshman mixer and community Fair, and Friday’s dedication. A Harambee Festival with vendors and entertainment is set for Sept. 7, and a graduate student mixer is scheduled for Sept. 13.

“The Black Cultural Center already has proven to be an integral part of the University of Tennessee,” Redmond said. “It is a place to gather, learn, share ideas, and experience a sense of community. It is a place for all students.”