W.E.B. Du Bois Center launches fundraising campaign

Du Bois Center seeks the support of the community through fundraising

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Nina Walat / Daily Collegian

By Konah Brownell, Collegian Correspondent

The W.E.B. Du Bois Center launched a fundraising campaign this February, the birth month of its namesake and celebrated by many as, Black History Month.

“We accept donations from anyone at any time. The reason we’re doing it in February is simply that February the 23rd is Du Bois’ birthday,”said Adam Holmes, program manager at UMass’ W.E.B. Du Bois Center. “Another reason to do it now is really to show that the work continues, the Du Bois Center is still putting out programming.

Stationed on the 22nd floor of the Du Bois Library, the Center makes the writings of Du Bois readily accessible to the public and seeks to engage audiences in robust discussions and scholarship concerning issues relating to race, socio-economic inequities, labor and social justice. The center also wants to create a space for Black, indigenous and people of color or “BIPOC”, students, safe for radical thought, and to discuss the ideas of our time, Holmes said.

“Your gift to the W. E. B. Du Bois Center marks a commitment that you share with us, to fight for racial justice, to fight for economic justice, to fight for all of the ways in which you feel the world needs help,” said Whitney Battle-Baptiste, the director of the Du Bois Center in its fundraising video.  “Through the Du Bois Center and the work, and the programming and the people connected to us, your gift helps us to ensure that the work of Du Bois is not forgotten but continued for generations to come.”

Since its establishment in 2009, the Center has grown to offer fellowship positions, year-round programming and support to on-campus and community groups. The Center received a large grant in 2016, but it ends this September, according to Holmes. Through private donations, the Center hopes that it can continue to fund programming, support scholarship, expand and develop the physical space of the Du Bois Center to make it more welcoming.

“We want to keep the momentum up. We’re very grateful for the fact that the University has recognized the work we’ve done and have invested in the Du Bois Center,” Holmes said.

“The other thing about donations is that it shows an investment in the Center,” he said. “It’s a way for someone who interacts maybe even casually with the Du Bois center to back us in a way that also solidifies their relationship, they become a stakeholder in what we do.”

Looking ahead to when all students can return on campus, one of the ideas the Center is developing is a monthly event specifically for students at UMass where they will receive a free copy of “Souls of Black Folk” written by Du Bois, a free dinner and a chance to come together and discuss Du Bois.

While the pandemic has made it difficult for the Center to currently host events like the monthly dinner, it continues to engage the campus community in robust discussions about Du Bois’ writing through a community program called the Breakfast Group, which meets every Monday at 9:30 a.m. through Zoom.

The center is also looking forward to bringing people into the library to experience the new resource they have developed with the Digital Media Lab, called the Museum in a Box. According to Holmes, this resource will allow people to handle replicas of artifacts, from the Du Bois papers to objects from Du Bois’ boyhood home, now historic landmark in Great Barrington.

“The archaeological surveys that UMass ran there have produced lots of fascinating artifacts, and we’ve 3D printed replicas of these,” Holmes said. “Students will be able to use this resource to learn about Du Bois’ life, but also interact with these artifacts in a way that hopefully will inspire them to look into Du Bois a bit more.”

In addition to donations, Holmes said people could show their support by interacting with the Center, following them on social media, retweeting them and joining their events.

“We want Du Bois Center to be a resource for everyone,” said Holmes. “What we want is for people to be aware that we’re here, that we’re doing what we can to keep Du Bois’ legacy going, to keep fighting for what he wanted, which is a better society.”

Konah Brownell can be reached at [email protected]