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Gwendolyn Brooks Memorial Park Dedication Set for June 12

June 3, 2021

MACOMB, IL -- "Do not desire to fit in. Desire to oblige yourselves to lead" - Illinois Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks.

The new Gwendolyn Brooks Memorial Park Dedication will take place on the Western Illinois University Macomb campus beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 12. The Park is located on the corner of Adams and Normal streets on the WIU-Macomb campus, on the site of the former Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center (GBCC). As COVID-19 restrictions remain in place, the event will be limited to 100 participants, by invitation only. The dedication will also be livestreamed on WIU's YouTube channel at

The Gwendolyn Brooks Memorial Park was created is to honor the legacy of an American icon and award-winning poet, the Illinois Poet Laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, nurturer of excellence and Western's first Honorary Doctorate recipient.

According to Carl Ervin, program coordinator for the WIU Multicultural Center, the park is located on the ancestral lands of the Illinois (Inoca) indigenous people, and on the site of the former Black Cultural Center (BCC). The BCC was established in 1969 as a result of the WIU Black Student Association and a WIU student task force. It was dedicated as the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center on March 21, 1970. The GBCC, also known as "The Black House," served as a home away from home for 32 years before moving to the Multicultural Center in August 2009.

"The Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center has always been a haven for Black students on the campus of Western Illinois University. It was where students gathered and received various support on not just educational endeavors, but sometimes more importantly the social and emotional trauma that is associated with being on a college campus," said Darryl Hollimon, president of the Black Alumni Council. "Gwendolyn Brooks made many visits to not just the university, but also spent time at Macomb Senior High School. The Gwendolyn Brooks Park Project was spearheaded by former WIU President Jack Thomas, State Sen. Kimberly Lightford and Past WIU Black Alumni Committee President and former Trustee Lyneir Cole."

The memorial park was made possible by donations from alumni and friends, including significant contributions from the WIU Black Alumni Council; a State of Illinois grant; and the WIU Foundation. As part of the donations, the park features benches and a engraved brick patio area for gatherings, landscaping and plaques honoring the space.

"The Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center has brought people together on our campus for decades. The park honors our Center's beginnings and WIU's first Honorary Doctorate and Illinois Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks. It provides a lasting tribute and a tranquil gathering place for all," said Multicultural Center Director Rocio Ayard Ochoa. "We so appreciate the support for this wonderful project."

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Posted By: WIU News, University Relations
Phone: (309) 298-1993 * Fax: (309) 298-1606