For the past two years, writing for the Daily Campus has been my favorite part of myself. It is the most sustained activism I have engaged in during my time at the University of Connecticut. Perhaps more than that, it has been the most affirming experience of my college career.
In Fall 2015, my life changed in many ways. The girl who hated public speaking was suddenly the Homecoming Queen, was beginning to toy with the idea of organizing and was finally going to begin writing for the campus paper. As this is my farewell column, I’m willing to let you all in on one of my most embarrassing secrets: I once fled the Daily Campus building before I even made it through the door.
You see, my freshman year I began college with a few clear goals in mind; I would write for the paper, I would join student government and I would be good at these things. I found out the meeting time for the opinion section, I picked out an outfit that I thought would send across the right message and I picked up a copy of the paper for research purposes.
The thing is, it was all good. Really good. Everything I read and saw impressed me, and even intimidated me quite a bit. By the time the next meeting rolled around, my lucky outfit screamed freshman who can’t write, and by the time I made it to the door, well, I didn’t.
So in Fall 2015, when my good friend Bennett Cognato began forwarding me the Sunday reminder emails from Chris Sacco, I ignored them, never revealing my embarrassing moment. Finally, he brought me along to a meeting and I pitched a piece, a critique of Hillary Clinton, of course. The night before it was published, I checked my email and saw a message from Matt Zabierek, managing editor at the time, telling me he had read and enjoyed my piece, and that I should be proud of myself. I never actually met Matt in person, and this easily could have been something he emailed all of the first-timers, but it was what made me come back and write again.
I submitted this, my farewell column, late both because tardiness is my tried and true blue friend and because goodbyes make me incredibly sad. I would be remiss, however, to fail to acknowledge the impact you all have had on me, as I’m not sure you would know otherwise. To the folks at the Daily Campus, I’m not nearly as familiar with you all as I would have liked, but I owe you all a debt that cannot be repaid.
You see, I know myself because of all of you. I found myself as an organizer while writing about the things I wished I could change. I found myself as a black woman while writing about fraternities who won’t let black girls into their parties. I became unapologetic. I relished in hate mail and grappled with comments that made me think.
The Daily Campus is what made me consider myself an activist because the Daily Campus is what pushed me to say the things I was afraid to even think. I have laid myself out in the pages of this paper word by word, line by line, and allowed my peers to pick me apart.
I’ve done this because I read the paper and know intimately the impact it can have. A lot has changed in the past few years, but a few things haven’t: every day, I picked up the paper that you all are responsible for and saw a lot of my world in those pages. I have trusted you to report on the movements that mean everything to the person I have become. I have never doubted that trust, nor have you ever given me a reason to.
The Daily Campus is the story of my life. I can line up pages from different issues and see a snapshot of the change I’ve made in my community and within myself. I can line up different pages and see a snapshot of when I went from the girl afraid of her own voice to the girl determined to amplify the voices of everyone around her.
Next year, I will be writing and attending graduate school. I hope to carry a bit of the magic from this paper and from your spirits with me on the journey ahead. Thank you for your writing. It was a beautiful story.
Haddiyyah Ali is a contributor to The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.