As a kid, The Cosby Show used to be my addiction. Each week I anticipated seeing that family on TV who resembled my family and other families I knew. I was in awe of the story lines, Denise Huxtable's fashion choices, and the positive perception the show exuded. I remember my mother scolding me about something, and I bravely stood up and said to her, "Clair Huxtable wouldn't talk to her children like that." Yea, I was hypnotized by the show. Therefore you can imagine my excitement when Denise went off to college and A Different World was born. I thought I had died and gone to television heaven.
After witnessing the characters on A Different world, their colorful personalities, stylish gear, trendy hairstyles, the camaraderie, and how proud they were to be at a historical institution - I made up my mind at a young age that Hillman College was my school of choice. It wasn't until later that my dreams were deferred when I discovered that Hillman only existed in the television world. "What? Hillman isn't for real Momma?" I was disappointed.
My disappointment didn't last long because I was later introduced to nonfiction Historically Black Colleges/Universities.. My mother would take my brother and I to college Greek shows and football games so that we could see what campus life was actually like. We were amazed at the sea of African American people we saw gathering together for the pursuit of higher learning. When I actually got the chance to attend an HBCU, I developed a deeper understanding of why they are so essential in our culture. Below are five reasons why HBCUs are life.
1. The Culture – The atmosphere feels like your old neighborhood or high school. You feel like you're a part of a family when attending an HBCU. You are the majority, and you fit in everywhere you go. You don't have to be quiet in a classroom because you feel that your opinions don't matter. You can be just who you were meant to be. There are no funny stares from people, no one clutches their purse, or moves to the far side of the sidewalk because you are walking by. It's a homey vibe, and you fit right in.
2. The People - While attending an HBCU, you get the chance to interact with tons of people from all over the world that look just like you! Almost everyone at an HBCU has similar backgrounds, goals, and struggles so it is easier to relate to your peers. When one person accomplishes something major at an HBCU, everyone feels the win.
3. The History - Every HBCU has a story behind its doors. Either it's a college/university where a sorority or fraternity was first established, or it's a college/university that educated profound leaders like Thurgood Marshall, talented actors like Taraji P. Henson, or creative souls like Erykah Badu.
4. The Education - The education you receive at an HBCU is priceless. When I took my first film course at Howard University, I learned so much about African American filmmakers that I never knew! A friend of mine from Nigeria once said to me that he learned more about Africa at his HBCU than he did from living there.
5. Life Lessons – HBCU’s tend to prepare students for life. Most HBCU campuses aren't blessed with state-of-the-art facilities and the latest technology. Long lines are nothing to us because we learn how to endure them on the first day of registration. If a child doesn’t already have tough skin, they will surely develop it at an HBCU. Our students have to work harder than students at other schools to be noticed and to receive the accolades we deserve. Therefore, when we graduate and go out into the real world, we are equipped to endure whatever comes our way and ready to put our best foot forward.
An HBCU is more than just an institution. It’s a familiar world within an unfamiliar world that cultivates as well as indoctrinates our kids. HBCU’s not only prepare students for jobs, but also for life and the many injustices that come along with it.
I'm proud to say that I am a HBCU Graduate (Grambling State University '03 and Howard University '06), and I thoroughly represent it through my actions, accomplishments, and perseverance. Check out my HBCU Grad tee below that I purchased from HBCUGRADshirts.com (they have other cool shirts as well). You all know I love a good t-shirt, especially one that states the truth.
Have an extremely awesome week everyone. Put your game face on and slam dunk anything that comes your way like my boy LeBron James and the Cavs!!! Go Cleveland!!!
- Samjah Iman