Not even heavy rain and muddied shoes could dampen spirits Wednesday.
In the middle of thunderstorms, about 120 students, faculty and alumni gathered under a small tent to celebrate the groundbreaking for the new Institute of Black Culture, called the IBC, and the Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures, or La Casita. The ceremony took place at 1510 and 1504 W. University Ave.
The rain ceased just in time for the official groundbreaking. Wearing white construction hats and yielding golden shovels, the speakers broke ground for both buildings, followed by cheers and applause.
Miguel Raya, a 22-year-old UF construction management senior, said students have been waiting a long time to finally start the project.
“This is a revitalization of civil rights on campus,” he said. “This is our space and we fought to revitalize it.”
Construction for the two buildings was delayed due to disagreements between faculty and students over whether the buildings should be combined. UF Multicultural and Diversity Affairs originally proposed a single U-shaped building, but students argued the plan would not properly honor the two separate communities.
UF President Kent Fuchs said in his speech the $10 million project is an important part of the community.
“This project will topple walls of ignorance and topple walls of prejudice,” Fuchs said.
Akil Reynolds, the president of the Black Student Union, said during his speech he thinks it is important students have a voice on campus.
“Students should never feel guilty to ask for what we deserve,” Reynolds said.
Students will have continued input on the two buildings’ furniture and interior pieces and can stay updated online, said William Atkins, the senior director of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs. They can visit the institutes’ website to see the latest meeting minutes, PowerPoints and audio recordings.
Atkins said the project should take about a year, with both buildings scheduled to be finished next Fall.
Carl Simien, the director of Black Affairs, told the audience he believes the new IBC building will carry on the legacy of the previous historic building. The buildings were 90 years old when they were demolished in 2017.
Current freshmen could not experience the old La Casita and only know of the Reitz Union space, said Sophia Betancourt, an 18-year-old UF exploratory engineering freshman. She said the current space is small.
“Spaces like this are important so people can have somewhere to call home,” she said.
Edward Zambrano, a 22-year-old UF political science senior, took home a souvenir jar of dirt from the site. But for him, it was more than a token.
“This is a symbol of a new beginning,” Zambrano said.
Leaders from the Institute of Black Culture and Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures, along with UF President Kent Fuchs and Student Body President Ian Green, break ground on the site of the new buildings for the IBC and La Casita located at 1510 W University Ave. on Wednesday evening.