United Way of Larimer County sat down with Jamal Skinner, the Founder and Executive Director of the Cultural Enrichment Center (CEC) in Fort Collins. We talked about the mission of the CEC, what he’s most proud of, and the importance of BIPOC-led organizations in our community.
What is the mission and purpose of the CEC?
The first priority is a safe space. A space where students or youth in this community who identify with being Black or African American can come to and be their authentic selves, without any judgment on them, and to build relationships with others who have a similar experience of existing in Fort Collins. The second priority is programming, whether it’s through folklore, art, music, language, dance, or learning of our history through books, literature, or film. Through all of that, we teach them to see these things through an African American or Black person’s lens. The objective is that they begin to build confidence and be able to feel fully connected to the community. It’s about developing that foundation, and that foundation can take them anywhere.
What is something that you’re most proud of with the work at the CEC?
For me, what I’m most proud of goes back to my story. I grew up in this, I know what it gave me, and I’ve seen what it gave those around me who utilized it. It creates this sort of GPS of how to navigate through systemic racism, and white supremacy, and to do it with grace and confidence. I’m also very proud of the young people who have been consistently coming to the CEC, giving their time to the space, and giving their time with respect, reliability, and accountability. I’m proud of their willingness and dedication to be open about what they know and what they don’t know.
Why is it important to invest in BIPOC-led community-based organizations? How does it benefit the community at large?
Simple answer. Having all voices, all thoughts, and all creativity really being at the forefront of a community creates the greatest communities we can imagine. Having these BIPOC-led organizations are only going to create a greater community where people can truly commune with one another. If we can create a future generation of kids that have more empathy and compassion for everything around them, it will be a lot easier for them.
Any last thoughts or things you’d like to share?
Our motto at the CEC is, “start where you stand”. A lot of people want to run here and there, but it’s about doing something right where you are.
To read the full interview, head over to United Way of Larimer County’s website: https://uwaylc.org/agency-spotlight-the-cultural-enrichment-center/