Beneath the Worcester Dining Commons, right next to Grab and Go and Chicken and Co., is a hidden gem known as the Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center. It was created in 1989 in an effort to support the growing Asian community at UMass Amherst and was originally known as the United Asia Cultural Center.
It was originally located in the Knowlton Residential Hall in Northeast but was moved and renamed. What a lot of people don’t know is that this center and a lot of the other diversity and inclusion groups on campus were created through the initiative of students, not the university. It was only thanks to students fighting for representation that these groups exist today and have the support of the school administration, which I think is really awesome and shows just how much students working together can really accomplish. If more people knew the history behind places like the Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center, I think more people would utilize them.
The Yuri Kochiyama Center is a quiet space to study, eat, and relax. It’s open Mondays through Thursdays from 1 to 9 p.m. Anyone is allowed to come here and essentially do whatever they want. A few of my friends came here and I ended up meeting some new people, including a few people who work there. They were the ones who told me about a lot of the history behind the place. There’s also snacks available for everyone to eat. And one very unique aspect is that there are different religious and cultural texts and materials available at the center. These can be utilized by anyone, making the center a great place for people to come and participate in whatever practices they engage in privately. It’s a really great inclusive space for everyone.
The center also holds different events throughout the semester, sometimes in conjunction with other religious or cultural groups on campus. They have craft nights so people can express their creative and artistic sides. They have guest speakers and discussions so people can engage in dialogues. They also have screenings of movies from diverse places to help viewers gain a better understanding of a different perspective. They even invite the filmmakers to campus to give a talk about their background and movie.
The Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center is a great place that I don’t think enough people know about. I really recommend you check it out.