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CU Boulder was a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I was gaining an Ivy-League (public) education. I was learning new ways of thinking from globalized professors. I was becoming equipped to be a “Forever Buff” — an alum who represents tradition, passion and influence.
At CU I was hyper-involved. I maintained two jobs, was president of Black Student Alliance, earned three majors and two minors, was treasurer of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., sat on the Chancellor’s Committee for Diversity & Inclusion and did a stint on CUSG’s finance committee. But what if I hadn’t pressed myself to stay dedicated despite my race?
CU was also a curse. An ideal student on paper, my reality was perplexingly different. According to CU’s Diversity Reports, in 2012 — my first year on campus — 391 Black undergrad students enrolled at the university. In 2019, that number had only increased by 0.04%.
Imagine being a part of what Regent Carrigan deemed a “blemish” on CU’s campus. I was a part of one of the smallest racial communities, which was not easy. I can count on one hand the BIPOC friends I met at, and who graduated from, CU. I’d been egged, called racial slurs, was wrongly arrested and immediately released. I was stopped by police to “gut check” the vehicle that I OWNED. It was gruesome.
I don’t want future generations of Black students to endure what I endured. They deserve to be at CU.
I was exhausted, anxious, fearful. I learned to survive in a world that situated me in last place and to endure a system and its institutions that forced me to work harder, smarter. I maintained the ability to love and transmuted negativity into passion.
Graduating in 2017 was one of the best moments of my life. I attended every gloomy, cold commencement ceremony before mine… but the 2017 ceremony was magic. It was a beautiful clear-skied summer day. All the work had paid off. At least I thought it had.
These last few months prove the importance of advocating for #BLM at the local, national and global levels. I don’t want future generations of Black students to endure what I endured. They deserve to be at CU. I’m saddened students of color are fighting the same battles my peers and I fought. They deserve all of the fun, carefree adventures their white classmates experience.
I’m scared for myself, my friends and family. We can’t run outside, ride bikes or grocery shop without the possibility of being murdered in broad daylight — simply for being Black. My credentials don’t matter in a world where I don’t matter. The fact is: I’m a disposable Black woman in America.
What can you do about it? Pandemic or not, get uncomfortable. Breonna Taylor’s, Elijah McClain’s, Sean Reed’s [#SAYTHEIRNAMES] murderers are working and leading normal lives. Posting a black square to Instagram isn’t enough.
Engage in dialogues with colleagues or family members around the current state of our democracy. Sign petitions, make some calls and send emails! Contribute to bail funds. Educate yourself! Support local Black-owned businesses! Volunteer digitally. Lobby. Donate. Share info! VOTE! Support your former student groups. Join your company’s Black employee resource group. Be persistent and stay abreast of changes within your industry, company and at your alma mater that directly impact BIPOC communities.
As CU alumni, we have a duty to exemplify what it means to be inclusive, global citizens. I am honored to align with the current co-presidents of the Black Student Alliance, Ruth Woldemichael (IntlAf’22) and Olivia Gardner (EthnSt, WomSt’20), who last month urged Chancellor DiStefano to demonstrate his commitment to this work by critically analyzing the budgeting of both the Boulder Police Department and CU Police Department.
How will we set the precedent for future generations of BIPOC students and alumni who deserve to thrive at CU, in their careers, and as American and Universal citizens?
Paris Ferribee (Comm, Mktg’17) is an advocate for underrepresented communities (POC and Womxn) in the entertainment industry. During her time at CU Boulder, she was the president of the Black Student Alliance, winner of the 2015 Forever Buffs student award and held numerous campus jobs and leadership roles.
Photos by Matt Tyrie