February 2020

Dear DU Community members,

I’m proud to join the campus this year in celebrating Black History Month. For much of American history, the achievements of our black community members have gone unrecognized. This robs far too many of their rightful place in our halls of fame, history books and collective memory.

spirituals project choir

The University of Denver is by no means without its own failure of telling. There are stories we have waited far too long to tell and lives we have waited far too long to celebrate. And, even now, these stories are often surfaced primarily through the diligent efforts of people of color.

seeking grace exhibit

I think often of the Seeking Grace project led by Dr. Nicole Joseph and Kate Crowe with help from DU’s Sistah Network. Through their work, we now know the stories of black women, like Grace Mable Andrews, who, against incredible odds, paved the way at this university. Those involved in the project are now working on a corresponding documentary, giving these stories another platform and raising their prominence. For our students especially, the telling of these lives matters deeply. It represents a long history of accomplishment of which they are a part.

This week, I attended the University’s Black History Month lunch and learn hosted by Human Resources & Inclusive Community. Author and activist (and Denver local) Adrian Miller discussed his book, “The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas.”

We were lucky to have Adrian on campus; he is a gifted storyteller, and his lecture was as entertaining and humorous as it was informative. More than anything, his unimpeachable research served to underline what is obvious but all too easy to overlook: Since before our government’s founding, black people in America have been innovating, creating, toiling, supporting and leading. From the Oval Office of the White House to its kitchens, in the halls of NASA, on our battlefields, in our research labs, at our universities and within our local governments, they have made their mark — most often without the glory or prestige they were owed. Put simply, this nation would not be what it is without the contributions of black people. These contributions must be celebrated, not just in February, but year-round.

Happy Black History Month, DU. Up next is a list — by no means exhaustive — of stories, events and interviews celebrating black history and our black community members at DU. Let us continue our work to lift up all voices as we learn from our history and plan for our future.

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