As so many other people did, I stayed up EARLY Sunday morning at 2 am to see Beyonce perform at Coachella. I was so intrigued to see what theme she would choose. So imagine my surprise and delight when her theme was basically all about HBCUs. She had a HUGE marching band, dancers, a majorette, the Black National Anthem, Greek life, and so much more! During her performance, HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) was trending on twitter at #3 I believe and that made me truly happy. And that is what I want to write about right now.
In 2006, I was graduating from High School and picking colleges to go to like all of my friends and colleagues. Because I went to a predominately white high school, I decided I wanted to attended an HBCU and because I was in the band, I wanted to attend a school where I could continue that as well. When I spoke of my choice of the type of school I wanted to attend of course there was a lot of opinions, and mainly from my own community. Many people feel as if you attend an HBCU only when you can’t get into your “top choice” at a PWI (predominantly white institution). They are often not valued as high because that are all black and might not be seen as impressive on your resume as other schools.
Despite all of these opinions, I decided to attended Virginia State University, an HBCU not far from where I live. And I feel that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was in the marching band, Trojan Explosion, where I traveled all over getting to perform half time shows at different schools and at a huge band event called Honda at the Georgia Dome. I was also in a gospel choir called Virginia State University Gospel Chorale where I also got to travel around the country and we perform songs of worship. Those two organizations taught me how to balance work with extra curricular activities, how to have a strong work ethic, and how to make some amazing friends who I still have till this day.
Another concern I didn’t mention earlier that I often heard was that I wouldn’t be able to get back acclimated with the “real world” after being around only black peoples for four years. But this concern is invalid as African Americans are not monolithic. We do not all come from the same backgrounds, speak the same way, have the same opinions, etc. And that’s something I learned very quickly at VSU. I met people from all over the country and the world as black people are also not all from the US. So throughout my time at VSU I had to learn how to deal with different personalities and viewpoints and that still comes in handy today.
My main reason I will always have live for my HBCU and all HBCUs is that it creates a family atmosphere. And not just the students, the teachers became like family and mentors, the cafeteria workers felt like aunties and uncles, etc. I learned about my culture from everyone around me. I was able to stop by my teachers office at any point and just chat about life. I saw pictures where Martin Luther King Jr visited the building where almost all my classes where. I learned how these schools were built because we were not allowed into other schools, so we built our own. I celebrated and cried with everyone around me as President Barack Obama became the first black president. And that family dynamic continues with annual homecomings which are basically family reunions and anytime you see a car sticker or shirt from your school you have an instant bond with a stranger. I have these feelings and experiences because I attended an HBCU. And I will NEVER take it back.