Friday, February 1, 2013

My Love For Historically Black Colleges & Universities

If/when the day comes that I become Dr. "insert my government name" PhD I plan to start and end my professional teaching career at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). Words cannot express the amount of love and affection I feel for HBCUs. My heart warms whenever I think about the  endless possibilities I can contribute to one of these institutions. 

For those of you who don't know, HBCUs were established post slavery to educate newly freed slaves, who were denied the opportunity to pursue an education at the nation's predominately white colleges and universities. Many of these schools were established by well intentioned white northerners, who took it upon themselves to migrate south to educate black women, black men and black children. Others were established by various southern states to promote segregation. Because most newly freed slaves remained in the south most HBCUs were established in the south. Many of these schools started in the basement of churches and grew to full-fledge institutions thanks to the generosity of philanthropist. Today there are 105 historically black colleges and universities in the United States (wikipedia).  

I get so upset and annoyed when I hear black people bad-mouth HBCUs. I once heard my aunt bad-mouthing HBCUs. Mind you, this is a woman who didn't complete high school or attend college. Needless to say I put her in her place...

Me (to my aunt): I bet I received a better education at Spelman than your unemployed struggling daughter received at the University of Alabama!

The heifer looked like a deer caught in the headlights after I said that! Stupid bitch!

HBCUs have sent more African Americans to law school, medical school and graduate school than their predominately white counterparts. Some of the most prominent black men and women in America (both past and present) attended HBCUs. These institutions hold a very important place in African American history. For better or worst, they are OUR institutions and I personally believe we have a responsibility to maintain them, promote them and revere them.  

As some of you already know, I am a proud graduate of Spelman College, which is the number one HBCU in this country. No, I'm not just saying that because I'm an alum. It is a fact (wikipedia) (HBCU rankings) (HBCU rankings)!!!!!! 

While I was a student at Spelman I found something that eluded me growing up in rural Georgia surrounded by rednecks and country ass black people. I found a community of like-minded people. I found a nourishing environment of cultured black women from all over the world. It wasn't until I arrived at Spelman that I realized how STARVED I was for a community of functional on-point black people! 

As an 80's baby, I always get angry when I think about the reality that a true black community doesn't exist. It used to exist, but it's long gone at this point. The community my grandmother used to describe is GONE and that shit is not coming back. I hate it. For a long time I grieved for it, but now I accept it.

My grandmother used to tell me stories about her childhood, which consisted of a cast of characters, who looked out for each other. Her childhood is reminiscent of the show Good Times (or a Toni Morrison novel), but set in a rural country town. My grandmother's family was poor as hell, but they had each other's back. They were surrounded by a community of black families that included a father in each home. Out of wedlock births were shunned. When they wanted to have a good time someone built a juke joint in the woods (think: The Color Purple--they built the juke joint in the woods to keep white people from bothering them) and served homemade alcohol (read: stump liquor).

It used to get upset because I didn't think I would ever have fond memories of a black community like my grandmother. By the time I was born no such community existed in our neck of the woods. I feel like the Civil Right's generation sold us out and paved the way for the dissolution of our community. Our businesses are gone or on their way out the door (referring to black newspapers, insurance companies, black owned beauty supply stores, magazines, funeral homes etc). Black people don't trust each other anymore. We don't support each other. We now associate black businesses and HBCUs with INFERIORITY as compared to non-black businesses and predominately white schools. When we were a community black businesses were a symbol of black pride. Now motherfuckers would rather shop at the Asian store than the Black store on the same block!

When I arrived at Spelman I experienced a sense of community the likes of which I never thought I would experience. I felt loved. I felt sheltered. I was inspired by all the successfully black women around me. I was motivated to achieve. I will never forget this period in my life. It was the best four years of my life. This is MAIN reason I want to teach at a historically black college or university. The sense of community at HBCUs is unparalleled. 

I know HBCUs get a bad rap as "party schools" but that's not what these schools are about (and truthfully some HBCUs need to raise their admission standards to prevent the admission of people who aren't about their business). These school weren't founded to produce good marching bands, fraternity/sorority step shows and party animals. They were founded to educate African Americans.

I truthfully cannot imagine teaching anywhere but an HBCU. Money doesn't matter. I know I won't get paid as much teaching at Savannah State University as I would teaching someplace like Harvard, but my heart and soul belongs to Spelman College and institutions like it. My children will be raised on/around an HBCU. Through me, they will experience the warmth, love and sense of community that is offered at HBCUs.

I searched all over for a documentary on HBCUs but I couldn't find one. I did however find this short documentary about Oakwood University.


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