Last night I had the privilege of accompanying my mother to the UNC-CH Black Alumni Association Awards Gala, where she was inducted into the illustrious “Golden Ram Society”, an honor extended to those select few who earned graduate degrees 50 years ago from one of the most prestigious universities in the world: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is important to note that my mother and her fellow inductees were amongst the school’s first African-American students to receive graduate degrees from this predominately white institution at a time when being a minority on campus was exactly that – a minority. There were no support organizations in place to help financially, emotionally or even spiritually in those days, so without tremendous fortitude, determination, and of course extreme intelligence, my mother and her fellow inductees could never have survived, much less earned such outstanding degrees.
As I went up to the front of the ballroom to take my mother’s picture as she received her award, my heart filled with joy and pride (not the ungodly kind mind you). Always humble to a fault and ever so beautiful, I can’t remember a time I’ve ever been more proud of my mother. To know what she had to endure in order to receive that award last night brings tears to my eyes but blessing to my heart. And I, along with every other African-American college student in the world, owe a great debt to my mother and her fellow inductees for the path they paved for the rest of us. I myself am a holder of an advanced degree (MBA) because of my mother’s trailblazing efforts, and last night, I profoundly rejoiced in that truth and oh how thankful I am for it.
So congratulations to my mother, Mrs. Delores Parks Simpson: you are not just my mother, you are my inspiration, my trailblazer, my mentor, my example, and my friend. I am SO thankful to be your daughter!