An HBCU Experience Cannot Be Duplicated

Beyonce’s Coachella 2018 performance was HOT! She brought a historically black experience to a historically white audience. She belted out ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ and had a full marching band in the stands! I was transported back to my own college days and I loved the way she exposed HBCU culture to mainstream America.

I always wanted to attend a black college. From the moment I tuned into “A Different World,” I knew I was going to Hillman. But when I sadly learned that it was a fictitious school, I wanted the next best thing…. Spelman, of course! (I mean, I know they are all great but let me rep my school for a moment)! Anyway, it was one of the best experiences of my life and I am so glad I made the choice to attend an HBCU (Historically Black College or University). Often, I think of the ways I will portray the importance of HBCUs to my children in hopes that they clearly see their value as well.

Here are the reasons I love my HBCU!

1. Black professors everywhere you look! Many universities have black professors, but at least half of my professors at Spelman were black! And my average class size was about 15 students. Our professors knew our names and wanted us to succeed. They were like family. I’ll never forget a day that a classmate overslept and didn’t show up for a final. The professor called her, woke her up and said “get here NOW for your final!” My classmate flew out of bed and straight into class to sit for the final. That was special to witness.

2. My relationships with professors. I had the true “Hillman” experience, pretty similar to “A Different World,” where we were very close to many of our professors. We even had a class sleepover with the professor at my apartment. During this sleepover, students shared some of their most coveted stories, from falling in love, to being victims of abuse, etc. We each had one another’s back, our professor included.

3. The curriculum was dope and rich. We had classes designed to teach us about the African diaspora, our culture and our communities. Learning about our history in an academic setting was a first for many of us who were used to only learning about American history in the classroom.

4. Homecoming was THEE best! It was the annual event to live for. And one wasn’t even enough. We often did drive bys through every neighboring HBCU homecoming we could find! I’ll never forget traveling to Howard’s homecoming in 2000 and getting to “the yard” just in time to hear Jay Z performing. I had never gotten out of a taxi and run so fast in my life!

5. Alumni truly look out for you. My first job offer after college came from a Spelman professor who was looking for a project coordinator on a study she was conducting at Northwestern University. To this day, she is my mentor and continues to look after me.

6. We learn black excellence is REAL. From the professors who taught us, to debates about race, class and gender, we were intellectually stimulated and learned about other black people who were making/had made important contributions in academia. Like Bell Hooks and Audre Lorde. There was never a dull moment in class and every day was a celebration of black intellect and success.

7. Attendance is a privilege. My Spelman sisters and I knew it was a privilege and honor to attend such a prestigious institution. Despite Financial Aid issues (let’s keep it real), ridiculous wait times for class registration and dorms with no A/C, we knew our HBCUs had a powerful history, and we took great pride in being apart of the tradition and of the culture. Saying that you graduated from an HBCU comes with a lifetime of respect that can never be emulated or duplicated.

8.  Alumni are proud to give back. Many of us HBCU graduates will donate to our alma maters because we care deeply about them and want to see them succeed. We are aware that HBCUs often don’t receive the endowments that PWIs (predominately white institutions) do, so we take pride in supporting the organizations that played a role in our development. To be clear, we have a responsibility to keep these institutions alive and reach back to help those coming behind us.

9. It was just plain ole fun! Every Friday we had the infamous “Market Friday” where Clark and Morehouse students came to campus. There were vendors selling purses and oils, and all other unapologetically black essentials! But most importantly, it was a place to look cute and converse with one another. “Hey girl!”

10. It was HOME. Having grown up in a predominately white neighborhood, I had never been around so many beautiful black people at one time! At Spelman, I shared and celebrated experiences with black women like me, and I knew I was HOME.

As I move deeper into my career and continue to raise my family, I am now able to reflect and think about what I will teach my own children about the importance of HBCUs.

Future speech to my children about HBCUs:

HBCUs are a special, safe place, where you get to be unapologetically black, and your blackness is celebrated. So essentially, you get to be yourself in a white world. It’s a place where you are not the minority. These institutions were founded for us because we were left out of other institutions. We fought hard against oppression to receive an education then, and we aren’t slowing down now.

I will always take great pride and have great respect for those who paved our way, and I will try my best to pave the way for those that come behind me.

-Yondi Morris-Andrews, Spelman 2004
This article was first published on Sassy Plum