Saturday, October 24, 2015

HBCU’s: Relevant or Relics?

HBCU’s or Historically Black Colleges and Universities graduate over half of all Black professionals in the U.S. They produce over 50 percent of the country’s Black teachers and 70 percent of the Black dentists. Even more, most Black folks who go on to earn Ph.D. have earned their bachelor’s degree at an HBCU (United Negro College Fund). Yet, with those statistics, critics of HBCU’s argue that their time has come and gone, and that they are no longer needed.

As someone who attended an HBCU (Tougaloo College), I can speak from personal experience the great work being done at those institutions. When I arrived on campus in August of 1992, it was the first time in my life; I was surrounded by so many driven, determined, and forward-thinking Black minds. I was forever changed by that experience. 

You see, HBCU’s do more than prepare students for the academic rigors of one’s chosen field of study. They teach students to love themselves and that they come from a people who are more than side-notes, side-kicks, and stereotypes. What is more, they instill in its students a sense of pride and confidence, and empower them to take direction over the course of their own lives. Now that may seem irrelevant or something out of a James Brown song. But when you are the first in your family to go to college or come from a community in which the only people who get out of the neighborhood are rappers or ballplayers, being in an environment where you are nourished and your sense of self is nurtured and your intellect cultivated is life-changing. There aren’t any words for what that means to your future success.

I left Tougaloo after 2 years to go to Film School. Still, to this day not graduating from there is one of my biggest regrets in life. I know that I wouldn’t be who I am and where I am without my time at Tougaloo. The people I met there had a profound impact on my life.

To those who think HBCU’s are inferior or not necessary in this multiracial, multilingual global marketplace, consider the success of such notable HBCU alumni: Oprah, Tom Joyner, Dr. Ruth Simmons (president of Brown University), Tanika Ray (Designer and TV Host), Spike Lee, Shaun Robinson (host on “Access Hollywood"), and Jacque Reid (journalist), just to name a few.  And consider that the enrollment of White, Latino, and Asian students (around 20 percent) have been on the rise at the 105 HBCU’s (BET). In fact, a few years ago, Morehouse’s Valedictorian was White.

So check out an HBCU and see what they have to offer. You never know. One just may be the right fit for you.

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