There is something about attending a historically black college or university that isn’t always easily summed up in words. There is something special, reverent that—if you are fortunate enough to have attended and graduated from one—you can’t always explain to someone who explored different higher education options. Some people doubt the relevance of an “all black” school in a “real world” that is far from all black. Some dismiss the caliber of education received at HBCUs as sub par.
For those who chose to attend an HBCU when they very easily could have chosen their pick of the litter, you know what others do not. You know that there is no place that can embrace you, challenge you, love you, frustrate you, prepare you and propel you into destiny quite like the right HBCU. You, like I, didn’t reserve your alma mater as a back up plan. You surveyed your myriad options and decided that it, hands down, was the best choice. When others tout their degrees from other institutions they deem more rigorous and acceptable, you smirk because—without taking anything from their accomplishment—you know the truth…and the truth never needs to be argued. It stands alone.
There seems to be a kinship shared amongst graduates of historically black institutions. If you’re out and you come across someone else who graduated from an HBCU, it’s as if there is an immediate commonality, even if he or she attended a different school. “You went to Spelman? Man, I went to Hampton.” And so the conversation goes. It’s almost like we’re all a part of this overarching fraternity. Yet, at the same time there is unending rivalry as well. It is understood that not all HBCUs are created equal. As such, it is common for alumni to one up each other in a quest to solidify their institution of choice as the best.
I recently attended a fundraiser where another attendee asked what school I graduated from. When I responded, he followed with a quick, “Ok, so you graduated from the second best HBCU that exists huh?” Baffled, I asked which institution was considered the best. He informed me that his alma mater, FAMU, was. I chuckled because, again, the truth never needs to be argued.
You see, I am a proud graduate of Howard University, the place we alums affectionately refer to as the Mecca. Like many HBCUs, Howard feels like home. In fact, as you walk onto the hilly campus, you are greeted by a sign that literally says “Welcome Home.” You are surrounded by a sea of beautiful blackness. And while it may seem sometimes that it’s just about looking the part, Howard’s campus is filled with brilliantly beautiful minds. As you walk through the hallways of Douglas Hall, you are reminded of legends who walked those very halls centuries earlier. It is difficult to not be humbled by the sheer weight of the importance that such an institution, and other institutions like it, has played in the history of people of the African Diaspora. It gives me great pride to be associated with such a legacy of excellence.
I recently saw a poster that said that the first African American Supreme Court Justice, African American U.S. Senator, female mayor of a major city, African American female lawyer, African American U.S. governor, African American U.S. Ambassador, African American General in the U.S. Army, and I could go on and on, were all graduates of Howard University. That is what an HBCU education will get you, for those who were wondering. To all of my fellow Bison, I send an “awwwww HU” your way. And to my HBCU companions who didn’t choose Howard, I love you too. But like Kanye, when he hopped on stage and interrupted Taylor Swift, I submit to you “No disrespect to your school, Howard is the best; in fact, it’s the standard.” I kid. Not really.
While I am clearly biased—I unabashedly, indubitably, and unequivocally herald Howard as the best—I am sure that if you are a graduate of a historically black institution that you have a similar pride in your alma mater. Let’s talk about it.
Are you proud that you attend or have graduated from a historically black institution? If so, what sets your school apart from the others?
Sheena Bryant is a writer and blogger in Chicago. Follow her on twitter at @song_of_herself.
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