Chapter Three: Crossing Over


     As my mother, my eldest sister and her husband drove away in their station wagon from my freshman dormitory Parrrington Hall, I knew I had just entered into a world far removed from my agricultural community of Oroville, California.

     I had been accepted at the University of California at Santa Cruz. I had now crossed over into a world of privilege: wealthy students, intellectuals and a place where I would be measured chiefly by my scholastic performance.

     Left behind were the dusty roads and prune fields that I worked in each summer to earn money for my school clothes,as well as a community with Southern sensibilities. Instead, my world was replaced with a canvas that included a relatively new university campus nestled in a redwood forest that had immediately become the most competitive UC campus to get into - in part because it had an enrollment of only 2400 and also because of its unique teaching style: no letter grades, small classes, counter-culture students, and majors that could be self-designed as independent majors. You could basically write your own ticket.

     At the foot of our “city on a hill” campus was the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and a town along the Pacific Ocean that survived in great part by its tourism.

     As foreign as the contrast of my new environment had become, even more alien to me was leaving my familiar orbit inhabited by the have-nots in exchange for the elite and well-educated.

     I felt very much out of my element.

     It would be years later when I would realize that the reason I made friends with the many African Americans in town as much as I did was because so many reminded me of those I had said good-by to. They mirrored me. I was comfortable with them. My Santa Cruz town folk were also have-nots and for the most part, some were not welcome on campus by either Black students or the university community because they did not look like they belonged there.

     A part of me felt I did not belong there, either.


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