Black History Month gives Etenesh Bartley, a 20-year-old CSU student, one more reason to feel proud about her African heritage.
“I’m very proud to be Ethiopian,” Bartley said.
The story of how the sophomore anthropology major ended up at CSU is a cultural journey spanning across several countries.
Bartley was born in Ethiopia and lived there until she was 8 years old. Since her father works for the United Nations, she moved to numerous places in Africa throughout her childhood.
Eventually Bartley chose to move to Colorado, where her family owns a house. But she is not any closer to them; right now her parents and younger brother live in Zimbabwe.
“Ethiopians are very genuine, kind people,” Bartley said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, their doors are always open to you.”
Her apartment is filled with remnants of her native country: rhinoceros and lion figurines on the coffee table, pillows made of giraffe fabric and elephant statues.
Bartley described her experience at CSU so far as a positive one.
“It’s such a big school that it’s hard to meet people,” she said. “But the ones I’ve met have been very helpful.”
Before moving to Fort Collins to attend CSU, Bartley completed two years at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs. At first, she explained, she was the only black student at CMC.
“It didn’t bother me at all,” Bartley said. “I don’t look at peoples’ color, I just look at where they grew up, their upbringing, their values and culture.”
Bartley feels blessed that she has never felt the sting of racism. She said that she makes black and white friends wherever she lives, and she doesn’t see any difference between her diverse friends.
“I’m just interested in interacting with people,” she said. “As a cultural anthropology major, I love learning about different cultures, no matter what they are.”
Bartley explained last week she was sitting on a bench on the Lory Student Center Plaza when three students approached her and said, “You’re from Ethiopia, aren’t you?” Bartley said she automatically felt a warm connection with the others, who were also from her original country. The four students excitedly had a conversation in their native language, Amharic.
Bartley said she would like to see more interaction between different races on campus, but she doesn’t notice any apparent racism or segregation between ethnic groups at CSU.
“If there are racist people, I don’t notice,” she said. “I’m not interested in finding faults in people.”
Bartley’s childhood spent traveling and her experience in many diverse countries has given her an appreciation of all types of people, she said.
“We all have our own values and culture,” she said. “I’m proud of my heritage but at the same time I can appreciate all people.”