|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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
very much out of my element.
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.