Published: Feb. 10, 2022

As we celebrate Black History Month, I want to acknowledge campus initiatives offering opportunities for our campus community to connect, learn, share perspectives and expand our understanding of one another.

Chancellor Philip DiStefano

Chancellor Philip DiStefano

These uplifting and inspirational events are taking place this semester as we continue to heal and recover from recent local tragedies, including the Marshall Fire, which impacted hundreds of students, faculty and staff who live in Boulder County.

They are also occurring as many of us struggle to process recent sad and disturbing events, including a wave of bomb threats toward historically Black colleges and universities, an attack on a Texas synagogue, a police-involved shooting that drew community protests, and bitterly divisive political rhetoric about public health guidelines, Supreme Court nominees, banned books and the integrity of our electoral process.

Amid this violence, tragedy, hardship and discord, it can be challenging to find a glimmer of hope and encouragement around us. Fortunately, our campus provides opportunities to engage in ways that expand our mutual understanding and support one another, and I encourage you to take advantage of these events and other resources. As we work toward creating a more inclusive campus, our success will require all of us to be more connected and informed.

On Tuesday, one of the campus’s signature events, the spring Diversity and Inclusion Summit, took place under the auspices of the Center for Inclusion and Social Change. I am grateful to all who devoted time, focus and energy to organize and attend the summit, which has been instrumental to building greater engagement and community on our campus.

This year’s summit featured a keynote presentation by Russell Wigginton, president of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, who spoke about resilience through struggle, and culminated with a talk by CU Boulder Professor Reiland Rabaka, the founding director of the Center for African and African American Studies, who highlighted “the strength, courage and wisdom of the Black experience.”

Last month, in an event commemorating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and supported by CU and other Colorado universities, our community also had the opportunity to join a conversation with Howard University journalism Professor Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of the 1619 Project, about “the importance of Truth, history and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

Carrying these themes forward this month and through the semester is The Power of Community initiative, featuring distinguished speakers and events that will continue community conversations around topics brought up at the summit.

Also deserving of our recognition and support is the student-led #BeTheChange Challenge, which celebrates Black History Month and asks us to embrace daily habits to address racial inequity and work toward solutions. Through Feb. 27, the challenge provides opportunities to engage in a variety of creative ways, including a book club reading of How to Be an Antiracist by National Book Award winner Ibram X. Kendi.

The seven graduate student leaders who organized the challenge are members of the Leeds MBA Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) committee, which promotes inclusive excellence in their program, their school and across our campus. Another goal for the students is to raise scholarship funds for the Barney Ford Fellowship.

To the Leeds JEDI student leaders, the Center for Inclusion and Social Change, and everyone else who organized, attended, presented at and contributed to these campus events, initiatives and other community-building gatheringsthank you.

None of us can do this work on our own, and I encourage you to take advantage of available events and resources. We are better together, and only by supporting one another and campus initiatives like these can we create an academic community that reflects the positive change we want and need to see around us.

With gratitude,

Phil DiStefano