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George Vlahakis
University Communications

Audrey McCluskey
Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center

Last modified: Monday, October 22, 2007

McCluskey hopes to open the doors wider to IU's Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center

An ambitious calendar of events being planned

Oct. 22, 2007

Audrey McCluskey

Audrey McCluskey

Print-Quality Photo

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Since getting her doctorate from Indiana University in 1991, Audrey Thomas McCluskey has been a professor, a scholar of black women activists and black film and director of the university's Black Film Center and Archive.

Already the author of two published books this year about black film, she has two other books that will be released in the near future, about the late comedian Richard Pryor and South African film.

So the associate professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies already was busy when she accepted an interim appointment to direct IU's Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, located at 275 N. Jordan Ave.

"It's been a good experience to work on another level with students," she said. "It's a bit of a more nuanced relationship than simply that of the professor and the student. This is a more collaborative relationship with students, because I am working with them and planning programming and overseeing and assisting them in the things that they want to do and things I want to do."

Already this semester, there has been a freshman orientation week for black students and a new film series. There have been several collaborations with IU's Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies and an IU graduate student organization, the Black Scholars Collective. McCluskey said she hopes others are seeing the center open up more to the rest of the campus.

"Clearly it is a place of great visibility. People know this center, even if they haven't been here," she said. "It is a home for black students, with a wide front door for everyone. We want to open our front doors a little wider and invite the people in who have been curious about this building and what we do here. It's a beautiful building, but it's only what we make of it."

The Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center has been involved for many years in organizing successful student and community events, including partnering with the City of Bloomington on an annual Juneteenth Freedom Celebration. The building also is home to IU's African American Arts Institute and its three performance ensembles.

Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center

Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center

Print-Quality Photo

McCluskey said there was a need for stronger ties between the center and graduate students of color, to look for new ways to bring them together with undergraduate students.

"That doesn't happen on this campus on a regular basis, but we can be a vehicle for that," she said.

A new brown bag lecture series highlighting new research and creative activity by IU faculty and graduate students about the black experience has been underway. It takes place the second Wednesday of each month. Earlier this month, acclaimed African America filmmaker Julie Dash, director of "Daughters of the Dust" and "The Rosa Parks Story," spoke at the center.

On Friday (Oct. 26), the center will welcome filmmaker Keith McQuirter, recipient of the Martin Scorcese Young Director's Award. He will answer questions about his experiences in Hollywood as a young director, beginning at 4 p.m. at the center. McQuirter, a native of Bloomington, also is participating in the Mosaic Film Festival at the Monroe Country Public Library.

Another collaboration with the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies will be the "Critical Issues" lecture series. It will feature nationally known scholars and activists who deal with pertinent issues not widely receiving much attention. The center also is launching a student oriented newsletter -- "SHOUT-OUT" -- which will be published in print and online.

The center will continue to facilitate programs with other units on campus during Black History Month. A pre-Kwanza event is being planned for November. But beyond programming, McCluskey said the center will look for ways to better help students stay at IU and succeed academically.

"I really enjoy doing programming, but our students may need something different," she said. "Our students may need more tutorials, counseling and friendship networks. They may need some things that aren't highly visible, but are what black students need."

Keith McQuirter

Film director Keith McQuirter will visit the Neal-Marshall Center on Oct. 26

McCluskey also hopes to get African American students more involved in community service projects around Bloomington. She acknowledges that overall she is embarking on an ambitious effort, "a full plate."

"Given that I am an interim director, maybe I am planning much too much," she quipped. "My plan may outlive my tenure, but while I am here I certainly don't plan to just warm the seat."