Ekua Omosupe was born on a plantation in Yazoo, Mississippi. Following the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1965, she was scouted to attend academic high schools programs that put her on track to attend Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. While Ekua did well academically, she felt displaced. She left Mount Holyoke, moved back to the South, and started a family. She left her marriage and re-entered college and earned her degree in Colorado. She came to Santa Cruz in 1985 to pursue her PhD in Literature. Ekua overcame many hardships as a single, Black, lesbian mother in those early years here. Like many in Santa Cruz, she struggled with homelessness and discrimination but found some help in the UCSC community. Her interactions with the graduate student community provided a space for Ekua to explore and openly assert her identity as a lesbian. Ekua lives in the area and is a Professor of English at Cabrillo College. Ekua speaks about how her pursuit of education brought her to Santa Cruz where she struggled to find housing.
“I feel that it is important to break our silence and create communities, because our communities are everywhere. I have the college community, the community at the grocery store, because I go there and see these people. I only see them at the grocery store because they work there, but they see me, I see them. That’s a community.”
Regional History Project
“I think of myself as a strong woman who is out there in the world doing her work, who happens to be black, who happens to be born from poverty, who happens to be a poet, who happens to be a lesbian, who happens to be a mother. I feel most black when I’m among white people. Any other time I don’t even think about it. You know what I mean? I’m just a person living my life. And that’s how it is. I just think of myself as Ekua, who happens to be all of these things.”
© Regents of the University of California. Courtesy Special Collections, University Library, University of California Santa Cruz. Audio detail from the Regional History Project Collection, Ekua Omosupe: Out in the Redwoods, Documenting Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender History at the University of California, Santa Cruz, 1965-2003. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/311893v2.
Professor and Writer
Ekua Omosupe’s first book of poetry, Legacy, was published by Talking Circle Press in Santa Cruz. Ekua is in the process of publishing another book, Snapshots of War: Old and New Poems.
The University of California’s Regional History Project documents the stories of Santa Cruzans since 1963. They continue with that work today. These stories not only document unique lives, but also tell a larger story about the life of agricultural and lumber laborers, business women, students, LGBTQIIA, and communities of color in Santa Cruz County. Listen to Santa Cruzans share their experiences in their own words. If you navigate to the MAH Do You Know My Name? virtual exhibit, you can further explore links to their stories and listen to the full interviews through the Regional History Project.
© Regents of the University of California. Courtesy Special Collections, University Library, University of California Santa Cruz. Regional History Project Collection. Retrieved from https://library.ucsc.edu/regional-history-project.