Dear Columbia: A Letter from Jessi “Jade” Paul

Dear Dreams,

Please don’t parish. Your surroundings are cold as the central air vents sending chills up your skin.

I sit with moistened cheeks and
Puffed up watery eyes;
Staring blankly at an orange wall on the third floor, as the wooden bench
Presses firmly against limp thighs.

Something unsettling just makes me want to flee from responsibility.

Free from 30 page papers, textbooks that draw you into unthinkable migraines;
False promises that told you to live
To your fullest potential.

Will I survive…

When this institution feels more like a money hungry corporate business than the livelihood of the thousands of passionate stories walking its ground?

Will I thrive…

When those thousands of stories become sorted into boxes labeled major, department, faculty, staff, race, class, student, poverty, disability; privileged?

“My parents pay my tuition and my rent every month, plus give me living expenses. Yeah I’ve got hella’ loans, but who doesn’t?”

“Hi- I’m Jess. No, I don’t have those loans ’cause my credit is bad and I’m without a cosigner. I’m simply older and am unqualified”.

That was never my dream come true.
For some of you enrolled, maybe.

The reality is I’m broke. Living in the midst of low-income. The home my parents raised me in.

I commute to campus everyday using a $28 7-Day Ventra pass weekly because I only receive enough Financial Aid to struggle part-time.

Do you know what that means?
Thus, no free transportation for me.

Yet even if I could stack high my enrollment with 16 credit hours…
The load would tremble badly
Upon my shoulders as I balance

Working retail for my living expenses that minimum wage can’t afford to pay for.

Why am I never the chosen one for student work-study?

Why does the campus counseling center lack actual helpful resources for the black girl from 95th street with a mushed peanut butter and jelly sandwich in her back pack?

Do the higher ups sleep well at night on a plush bed stuffed with the tuition money of billions?

Can these cushiony-paid folks catch a strong whiff of the buckets of sweaty palm juice; or peep the silent rumble of empty stomachs from sacrificing crumbled small change for study-note cards, instead of dinner or much needed allergy meds?

Inquiring minds would like to know of a resource guide, other than a colorfully trendy “You are here!” map conveniently painted on the walls

Such requested literature includes:

“How to Survive Oppression, Discrimination, and a Mostly White- Privilege-Based Campus: An Updated Columbia College Chicago Guide for Queer People of Color!”

And lest we not forget:

“Navigating Creating Change 2016! Yes, Seriously… @ColumbiaChi (A resource guide all queer students, faculty and staff of color need to know.)”

Oh wait, no one wrote these helpful books (yet).

I transferred here some years ago and the road to reaching my passionate and success inspired goals a lot of the time seems


I compare myself to “A students”.
I used to work hard for my grades
Despite struggles with mental illness.

Now on top of pushing myself toward the finish line; I combat Columbia teachers who don’t know how to APPROPRIATELY communicate back to my plea for help.

They discourage me with:

“Maybe your dream is elsewhere and this might not be the career for you.”

“Your missing assignments are like my childhood best friend who shot his own head- they are never coming back.”

“Wow, it’s tragic that you feel so alone and the resources can’t help your specific needs; yet have you considered attending a cheaper in-state college instead?”

“Maybe you should just take some time off to focus on your health; even though tuition is skyrocketing through the roof every semester.”

I feel broken.

My path again feels blocked, just like the panic attacks I repress I’m my tense chest.

I reflect on the systems of our society destructively built to keep an

Low Poverty
Gifted Writer


I am so much more than the small demographic in which the majority of my peers don’t
Look or live like I do.

Diversity @ColumbiaChi is merely for the show!
The publicity,
the bright lights,
And even the public outreach
Celebration we call Manifest.

I ask myself why I want nothing more than to be a colum alum; genuinely and proudly Living What “I” Love.

Why does four words of a changed
Slogan taunt me?

It’s as if I’m an outsider trying to grab tools not built for me; to fix a national problem within the systematic bullying of my United States education.

I leave you with not one request,

But many prayers, dried tissues from weekly counseling appointments, ripped out pages of plans to reach my far out graduation day which is sailing off into the fog of Chicago; seemingly with a busted paddle.

Audre Lorde told me to define myself for myself and not to get crunched into a “fantasy person” just so “you
money vultures” can eat me alive…

…Roughly speaking.

I am Jess.
I am twenty-seven years old.
It may take me a total of ten and a half years by 2018 to get my first degree.

Who’s to say if this college will honor their word to nurture their malnourished issues of diversity?

Not I.

Yet I’m still fighting for the cause…
‘Cause I love myself and I stand in solidarity with my various communities.

My identity is not reduced to a
Random Oasis student ID number.


The vow I made to myself to stay
Alive and to strive for a promising college experience- MATTERS.

My dream of opening a Queer Black Youth Center… MATTERS.

I am not alone…

“This is for the brown lesbians and queer womyn of color who’ve tried loving themselves when the world hates too much. You are Beautiful. Your dreams matter and you CAN make them come true!!!”
I believe in you.
Most Sincerely,
Jessica “Jade” Paul

jessi jade paul
Jessi “Jade” Paul

Jessi “Jade” Paul is a student at Columbia College Chicago majoring in Creative Non-Fiction Writing; with plans to open her own Non-For-Profit LGBTQIA+, Black Youth, Writing/Resource Center. She is very active in her role as a queer/lesbian artist and the secretary for Quare Square Collective; an LGBTQIA+ black artist Non-For-Profit collective in Chicago. She is passionate within her activism for many causes including Breast Cancer Awareness, Mental Health Awareness, and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Her performance name is Jade, and she enjoys playing the violin, writing erotic-lesbian poetry for open mics’ she helps to facilitate, lyrically dancing, and expressing her story via various forms of art; in hopes of inspiring others.


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