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The news of 20-year-old senior Ikenna “Kenna” Egbune’s passing has left CU reeling.
A candlelight vigil was held last Thursday night on the steps of Norlin Library to celebrate the life of Kenna, who was a passionate and active member of the campus community. He was a member of multiple groups, including Queer People of Color, which is part of the GLBTQ Resource Center, EyeResist and the African Students Association.
Renee Roberts, a 21-year-old senior ethnic studies major and one of Kenna’s best friends, said that he fought every day to be the person he was.
“He loved the quote, ‘Love and survival are the ultimate forms of resistance,’” Roberts said. “He was an activist that believed in radical humanism. He spent his time building multicultural community and learning about how to be an ally to other marginalized people.
“The day he passed he was making change in this world, and I have no doubt that he would have continued until he was old and grey,” she said.
Emma Harsin Drager, a 20-year-old junior ethnic studies major and another close friend, said that in the wake of Egbune’s sudden death it became apparent how influential a figure he was amongst his friends and the CU community.
“The last time I saw Kenna was a few nights before he passed,” Drager said. “A group of friends got together to celebrate the success of the QPOC and Eye Resist event with Mondo Guerra. I remember one of the last conversations we had, he said, ‘Don’t let anybody make you ashamed of who you are. People are always hating on Aurora. They call it ghetto. They call it hood. Who cares, rep A-CO with pride. People are always gossiping about relationships or mistakes we make. Who cares? Don’t be ashamed.’”
Through the trials and social barriers that Egbune experienced in his young age, Drager said that he always managed to create opportunities for himself and consistently demonstrated passion for life.
“Kenna fought for inclusivity because there were not many places in the world open to him,” Drager said. “He was a queer-identified black man who had to fight, tooth and nail, to make spaces for himself on campus.”
Not only did Egbune dedicate his life to justice for the gay and lesbian community, but he fought for the inclusion of all individuals, no matter who or what they identify with, Drager said.
“He called himself a womanist and saw himself as someone who was dedicated to the end of violence against women and women’s bodies,” Drager said. “I mean, how cool is that? A man, who loved and dated men, being dedicated to equality and justice for women? That is a true ally.”
Scarlet Bowen, director of the GLBTQ Resource Center, said that he will be missed greatly by everyone involved with the group.
“Sometimes it can be exhausting to work in social justice,” Bowen said. “[Kenna] had a hopeful attitude; he was gracious.”
He was a supporter of many different groups on campus and involved himself as much as possible with getting speakers to represent these groups, Bowen said.
“Kenna was one of the main people behind bringing Mondo Guerra to speak at CU,” Bowen said. “He made sure that every voice was heard.”
Guerra, a Mexican-American fashion designer who appeared on season eight of Project Runway and later on the series’s All-Stars season, remembered Egbune fondly.
“Kenna was a warm, luminous person,” Guerra said in a Facebook post Friday. “My thoughts and love go out to his family and friends. Such a sad loss.”
Egbune would make his friends stacks of hip-hop mix CDs, usually featuring black female musicians like Queen Latifah and Jill Scott. And if there was an open dance floor at a party, he was the first one there and the last one to leave.
“I remember being at a good friend’s house and watching Kenna dance in the living room for hours,” Drager said. “People would come and go, but he would never stop. Everybody there joked that he didn’t need a party — he was the party.”
He will be missed among the many people who knew him at CU.
“He was fearless, courageous, fabulous and fierce,” Drager said.
“He was a strong leader,” Bowen said.
“We can reminisce on Kenna’s sunshine smile, positive energy and courage to always be who he was, with no apologies, and appreciate the impact his life made,” Roberts said.
Even those who did not know Kenna personally feel saddened at the loss of a CU student.
“So sad to pass away at such a young age,” said Greg Marcus, an 18-year-old open option major.
“Having someone pass away is always hard,” said Wolfgang Schleicher, an 18-year-old MCD biology major. “Boulder is an especially integrated community, and it really is sad to see someone go.”
After graduating from CU this spring, Egbune dreamed of making a life for himself in Georgia, Drager said.
“Kenna was planning to move to Atlanta in May,” Drager said. “He saw it as the mecca of black culture and black pride in the U.S, [and] I really wish he would have been able to go.”
Students who wish to remember Kenna are encouraged to bring flowers and cards to the GLBTQ Resource Center at the C4C in room N450.
“It is a great way to celebrate Kenna’s life and to help students mourn,” Bowen said.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Zach Cook at Zachary.firstname.lastname@example.org.