Letter from the EPs Desk: The Status of Black Life at UGA

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By Jamari Jordan

To whom it may concern,

It was July 15, 2011 when I took my first trip into Athens. The University of Georgia had been my dream school since I was five years old watching the Dawgs play on television. At the time, I was debating between Clark-Atlanta University and UGA. To be honest, UGA was a dream, but I didn’t know if it was ever attainable. Then, I stepped onto campus and my mindset changed.

It was the standard UGA Visitor’s Center tour, but everything the tour guide said to us as a group felt like gospel. Herty Field, Old College, the Founder’s Garden, and of course the immaculate Sanford Stadium were all the visits. I left that summer day knowing I was going to come back.

I sent in my application to UGA in October. I was so anxious to get my acceptance I checked the site daily to see if any news had been posted. So, on November 18, 2011, I got the notice from the University of Georgia. I was deferred. I took it as a rejection. Truthfully, the first rejection I’ve ever received.

Dumbfounded, I stared at my computer screen while a few tears fell from my eyes to the keyboard for the next hour. I looked around my room, and all around me was Georgia paraphernalia, pillows, blankets, shirts, and jackets. In a rage, I threw it all in the closet. I thought I wasn’t good enough, and this just simply confirmed it.

Then, I proceeded to re-apply under regular-decision that same night. In an essay, I simply told the admissions office that they made a big mistake, and they would regret it if they didn’t accept me. I hit send, and the next few months were a blur. I really didn’t enjoy my senior year until March 30, 2012.

For weeks, I waited for the decision. I logged into the admissions site waiting to see that I was accepted. Everyday I left uneasy as no decision had been posted afraid that I would receive the same answer again. On March 30th, I logged into my friends phone, and I finally saw the fireworks. I got accepted, and I knew my life had just begun.

****

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I give my personal story to say this: I love the University of Georgia and she’s been the love of my life all of my life. I love her because I know how close I was to never having her. So, everyday I work so hard in appreciation that I do.

My heart breaks when I hear any student, let alone a black student, especially black males, say they don’t like UGA or hate it here. I always feel as if I failed them. I feel like there was something that I could’ve done to make their experience better.

Now as a junior, I’m usually one of the oldest in the room at any given time. I’ve seen UGA completely change, and I don’t know if it’s for the better. Last semester, I undertook the project of making a documentary about the black student life at the University of Georgia or BUGA in “Oh to be Young, Gifted, and Black: BUGA Under the Lens.”

I interviewed over 50 people and one thing was prevalent in those interviews, BUGA has a negative connotation. Few said anything truly positive, or moving about black student life at UGA. The contrast between this belief in 2015 and the campus I came into in 2012 is stark. I wasn’t just under the freshman daze; UGA especially BUGA was fun, exciting, and involving.

Now, people choose to be “ducked off.” Thats the cool thing now, to be low-key. Upperclassmen got the underclassmen involved and the cycle continued with every new class. UGA 14 and 15 definitely did that for me. I like to think I have done the same for UGA 17 and 18.

However, I think the UGA landscape of black life has just changed. Before, UGA went into urban, inner-city majority black high schools like Stephenson, Southwest Dekalb, Westlake, Tri-Cities, Miller Grove, etc and brought in minority students. Now, as the bar is raised higher and higher by each emerging class, minorities are mainly coming from private high schools or non-urban areas.

These minorities don’t have the same tie to black culture as previous ones did. They’re used to not interacting with other minority students. That’s the norm. Often times, they are not searching for that cultural tie that the urban minority students on average did.

Now, as we see so many great black programs struggling to get people out to programs, we have to change our approach. In the past, it was a given that if there was a Georgia Daze, Black Affairs Program, Yard Show, etc happening on campus, everyone would come out. That’s not the case anymore. We have to reach out and tell the incoming minority students why these events and especially each other are so vital to survival here at UGA.

If we don’t support each other and organizations created for the sole purpose of promoting cultural diversity and awareness, they will be gone. Then, where do we go from there? It’s one thing for an outsider to try to strip you of your culture. But, how damaging is it if someone from your culture does the same vile actions? Can any culture truly recover from that?

Remember, #BlackExcellence

Sincerely from the heart,

Jamari K. Jordan

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