Black World Tour at UC Berkeley
“Where can I find my familiar black culture?” Jamari Perry wondered when she left home to attend UC-Berkeley, a campus where black students number less than four percent. She found out right away when she got on board with other new students for the Black World Tour, an event that transformed her college experience.
During Jamari’s first week on campus, she signed up for the Black World Tour, an exploration of the local black community surrounding UC Berkeley. Sponsored by InterVarsity’s Black Campus Ministries, the tour began her involvement in the BCM group — and a deeper journey with Jesus. Now, as a senior leader, she is hosting the Black World Tour for other curious freshmen beginning their college journeys, hoping many will run into Jesus along the way.
I was both excited and nervous starting my freshman year at UC Berkeley. As a Christian, I wasn’t particularly worried about my faith or my relationship with God — I was more worried about my calculus class.
As I unpacked and settled in, I didn’t realize that people were praying for me, wanting my walk with Christ to deepen. These people were not just praying family members back home; they were students with InterVarsity’s Black Campus Ministries (BCM). And they welcomed me to Cal when I arrive as a freshman.
Students and staff in BCM know that, in the first week of college, freshmen meet new friends they will never forget. As they move into dorms and experience the campus for the first time, BCM takes advantage of Welcome Week by hosting a phenomenal event called the Black World Tour.
The Black World Tour is an event where freshmen and other new students are shown around the Berkeley area for various places where black students can feel at home. The tour includes:
- restaurants and stores with authentic soul food
- bookstores offering a wide selection of African American writers
- salons with hair care products
- local churches for worship and community
The event ends with dinner at a local restaurant that is Black-owned. When students leave, they feel loved and accepted. They remember BCM and know what we’re about.
There is great cooperation between our BCM group and the university’s administration and housing officials. The Resident Director publicizes this event and BCM leaders visit the dorms to get the word out about it. The fact that the university supports the tour encourages the students to come. There are large numbers of students who show up every year and I am blessed by the connections I make with new people during the tour.
UC Berkeley’s culture is very active and community-friendly. Because we share our campus with the local inhabitants of Berkeley, BCM is able to expose new freshman to the local community that caters to them. BCM helps to integrate them into the black culture of the university’s surrounding neighborhood. For most freshmen, the tour is often their first interaction with BCM. Students are drawn closer to God in a way that accomodates their needs and is not preachy.
At the tour, students find out more about what BCM offers on campus. They are given an opportunity to sign up for a ministry that fits their interest, such as:
- the Gospel Choir
- Praise dancing
- Drama team
- Prayer ministry
- Bible studies
The leaders of BCM contact students interested in the various ministries and they are invited to get more involved in a serving community. The tactful and tasteful manner in which BCM does this has made it InterVarsity’s largest Black Campus Ministry in the country. Praise the Lord for his amazing blessings upon our campus and upon me.
As I start my senior year this fall, I realize that my experience at UC Berkeley has been a true blessing, and I have BCM to thank. As we prepare for another Black World Tour, I’m excited to meet the new students who will become a part of our group and our ministry at Cal this year.