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My HBCU Book Entry: Hail Howard

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2012 by Free Smith


I attended Howard University from 2002 to 2006. I transferred and got my degree from Penn State. I always say that I graduated from Penn State, but I did all of my learning at Howard. My time there, I feel, is a major contribution to my mindset today. I had the opportunity to see, learn and participate in things there that I would never have known existed had I not gone there. Out of all of HU’s elements that I absorbed, I’d have to say the overall Black experience that I was immersed in was the most valuable to me personally.


At the foundation of the Howard experience is the Afro-American requirement. I feel it was so beneficial to us that it was required that we allot some of our time to learning about ourselves. The recurring theme of the Diaspora had a profound effect on me. I saw that there’s no difference between myself and the myriad of African descendants strewn throughout the world. As a radio production major, learning about Amos n’ Andy, Edison’s “Ten Little Niggers”, Birth Of A Nation vaudevillian minstrels and “race music” was enlightening. A life changing class for was Dr. Gregory Carr’s Black aesthetics course. I walked away thinking that maybe I didn’t see us as much based on society’s inbred concepts of beauty/value. These courses really made me question my perception of my entire existence.


The lessons on Blackness were extracurricular. I learned that Black is not only beautiful, but elaborate as well. As a black kid who was a “White boy” in school, I was aware that there were different groups of black people. I was always separated from Black comrades because of my vernacular and “smart kid” status. I’m not bitter about this, but I realized then that there are different categories of Black people. It wasn’t until I got to HU that I truly understood how deep we go. I liken HU to a sociological experiment. There were a plethora of kinds of Black people. It’s always said that we come in all different shades in a sense of complexion, but this concept also applies to lifestyles, attitudes and points of view. There were groups comprised of Black people from around the world with differing interests be it politics, the arts, science, religion, business, Greek life or, unfortunately, crime. There were DC residents in the mix. DC is a unique place culturally itself. Nevertheless we always found each other together blending in the Café, the Punchout, a house party or The Yard. It was a vision to behold at chapel services and other events in Crampton Auditorium when we all stood with fists clenched in the air singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. Furthermore, on nights like Black Tuesday, when we marched for affirmative action, the 2nd Million Man March, or the demonstration on The Yard when Laura Bush came, we were one.


Going to an HBCU made me value my Blackness as something that is rare and priceless. It also showed me that Blackness is not verbally definable. We can truly be whatever it is that we want to be. No matter who you are or what you’re into, there’s a place for Black people in various facets of society. A lot of us are working hard to assimilate to what society expects of us, but it’s obsolete to do so. Socrates said it best in his quote, “Be as you wish to seem.” We truly have the capacity to do so. However, the HBCU experience couples that notion with the African concept of “I am we.” While we are all different, we’re simultaneously the same. I am so appreciative to Howard for showing me that.