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Alumni Reflections of the Marcus Garvey Cultural Center's 40th Anniversary


Marcus Garvey Cultural Center Alumni Faces

Office of Alumni RelationsOffice of Alumni Relations
January 31, 2023

As the first named cultural center in the State of Colorado, UNC’s Marcus Garvey Cultural Center blazed a trail for other similar cultural centers across Colorado even as it provided community, leadership and resources on campus. In its 40-year history, countless students have found home not just within its physical space, but also within the network of support, inspiration and empowerment it provided. And for so many, that network and space remains core to their UNC alumni relationship.

“Thanks to the leadership of members of the Black Student Union, the support of student leaders like Neil Williams '83 and faculty partners like Mr. Robert Dillingham, and through the vision of our very first director, Steve Birdine, 'The Garvey' was built to represent the needs, achievement and potential of the Black students, staff and faculty that it serves,” said Garvey Director janine weaver-douglas ed.d. “Since February 1, 1983, that work has been carried out, developed and expanded beyond even what was originally imagined.”  (see why janine has requested that her name be recognized through the use of lowercase letters)

The Garvey Center will kick off the year-long celebration of the Marcus Garvey Cultural Center’s 40th anniversary with events on February 4, welcoming the community to an open house and tour of the Garvey Center from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., followed by the 40th Anniversary Reception at the Campus Commons Multipurpose Room at 6:30. Earlier in the day alumni and friends will attend the Women’s Basketball game against Montana State University.  

As the UNC community continues the celebration over the next year, the Garvey’s students and staff wanted to honor the growth and evolution of the center while paying tribute to the lives, leadership, and lived experiences of those who made it possible to celebrate this milestone. What better way to celebrate than through the voices and experiences of our alumni?

For years alumni have tied their positive UNC experience back to their experience with the Garvey. In doing so, their stories and perspectives have become a frequent part of UNC's alumni communication and campaigns. dr. weaver-douglas wants to bring these stories home, into one place by launching the Garvey Oral Histories Project as part of the center's 40th Anniversary celebration. Stories from alumni like Denise Burgress of Denver or Jamar Rahming of Wilmington, Del.

“The inclusiveness of UNC is that any student belongs there. That’s the energy of the school, and The Garvey has helped galvanize it. It reaffirms students who want a place to go just to take a breath and gives them a place to call home.” Denise Burgess '82, speaking to the power of a UNC education.

“Specifically, for Black students, because it was such a small population on campus, it's important to make sure that other Black students can see the future of what it can be through you, by you coming back and speaking or you popping up at a homecoming and just networking.” Rico Wint '10, sharing his perspective on Black History Month.

“My favorite thing about being a Bear is that you always feel included. I have so many lifelong friendships that started and grew from there. There was the Marcus Garvey Center – they always had different events. There’s so many places that you can be involved.” Maria Henderson '12, in her Bears Go Big feature.

“For the first time in my life, I had multiple Black teachers, and it was a really encouraging, supportive environment. I just fell in love with the coursework and learning what I was learning.” — Jenaya McGowan Zarrad '08, sharing her experience as a first-generation student taking their first Black studies course.

“I’m glad I went to UNC because of the opportunities I had to connect with a multicultural student body. We had the cultural centers, which were kind of a second home and an extremely welcoming environment, and they were places for all cultures of students to get together and learn about one another and talk about the things that mattered to everyone.” — Tangier Barnes Wright '05 in her Bears Go Big feature.

“As I reflect on 35 years ago at UNC,  I remain honored to know that WE did something great and lasting.” — Neil Diamond Williams ’83, former president of the Black Student Union, speaking on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the Garvey

“Everybody needs to take ethnic studies and humanities courses and enjoy them; because when you do that, you're making an investment in your upward social mobility and your future economic vitality.” — Jamar Rahming '06, speaking to the power of a degree in the humanities.

“The Garvey benefits from a long, storied legacy of active and engaged stewardship and leadership that worked to create passageways for Black students, staff and faculty to find community, relationships and development while at UNC,” weaver-douglas said. “Our goals today work to extend that legacy into the future. We operate as a haven – a place where Black students can feel safe, heard and understood – and strive to be a place where they find challenge and opportunity; where they can propel themselves into their own bright, beautiful futures. We aim to make permanent those pathways, while building new bridges of partnership and outreach for those we will serve in the future. We are proud to be entering our 40th year and thank the campus community and larger Greeley community for supporting all phases and stages of our growth.”

Get Involved

For additional opportunities to get involved with UNC and connect to fellow alumni, contact the UNC Alumni Association by e-mail at alumni@unco.edu.

Share Your Alumni & Garvey Story  

The Marcus Garvey Cultural Center has created an Oral Histories Project to collect narratives, images and stories of the Garvey, from those who experienced it firsthand over the last 40 years, including alumni, students, staff and faculty.   

Share your memories and meaningful experiences. Upload any media or artifacts – from photos and videos to articles or personal reflections – from your time at UNC. With your submissions and through audio and video interviews, we aim to curate student and alumni memories and document the impact The Garvey has had on the UNC community while preserving those memories for future generations.  

If you’d like to participate in the Oral Histories project, we invite you to complete the survey linked at the bottom of this page.   

Share Your Story