I had the opportunity to be invited as a guest to Howard University’s Homecoming this year, and all I could think about while walking the campus as an African American male was how I as a father had managed to raise two beautiful black women who never even considered attending an HBCU. (Historically Black College University)
In my thinking, I did not question whether their mother and I made the right or wrong choice in not pressing upon them to attend an HBCU because today, by the grace of God, our daughters are blessed immensely and have made their family proud. Even so , I found myself wondering as I soaked in the energy of celebration that filled the campus, if I would send my daughters to Howard or any other HBCU if I had it to do over again.
As founder of Open Government TV, and the lead blogger for OGTV’s Open Mind, I am thankful for the opportunity to address this question head on, and reflect on the factors that I believe at the time of college choices for Keisha and Kiana led to my decision not to urge my daughters to attend an HBCU.
My experience that day at Howard’s Homecoming honestly made me contemplate my current professional position and accomplishments since graduating from a non-Historically Black College 35 years ago. And again, I wondered if I (or my daughters) might have accomplished more if we had attended a Historically Black College.
My query led me to examine the industry in which I work, (Media /Marketing) and to look carefully at how the media portrays HBCUs. Based on this factor alone, (the media’s portrayal of HBCUs over the years), I realize that I did not even consider an HBCU because of the way I was raised and where I grew up, which lacked close influences to even consider an HBCU.
My parents were hard working entrepreneurs who never really stopped to examine the veracity of the Media’s portrayal of HBCUs as a mediocre choice for higher education. My father never went to college, and received a GED, and my mother graduated as a nurse from a Community College. So, like many Americans, they accepted the information they had received from the Media as credible enough for them to invest a portion of their earnings into a private school education for me.
My educational journey was different than many who paraded the Howard campus that weekend, but I came to be ok with that in my query because of my Homecoming experience at Howard that weekend. And it was that weekend, that I realized that I and my influences caused me to believe the hype. And in my surroundings the hype was not attending an HBCU.
Yes, the weekend made me realize that although I did not attend a Historically Black College, today, as an owner of a media company, I am now in a position to help shape the views that America and the rest of the world has of African Americans and other minorities. Here’s an example that illustrates the negative spotlight that the mainstream media places on HBCUs:
On that Saturday morning of Howard Homecoming weekend, the mainstream media had “BREAKING NEWS” (i.e., sensationalized news) concerning the Homecoming that it highlighted in newspapers, photos, and videos. The headlines read:
Eight People Injured at Howard University’s Yardfest Homecoming
The Washington Post Says, That Howard University Yardfest An Embarrassment
Yet my experience of Howard University’s Homecoming was very different from the image portrayed by the mainstream media. Being on Howard’s campus was like walking on a bit of Black History heaven. The Yard, oh my God, was an amazing reunion of festivities and commerce. The Yard was not only used to entertain but to give vendors the opportunity to display their products and connect to the legacy and loyalty of Howard Alumni. And then, it was also a pleasure , to have gone down after the game to McDonald’s parking lot to see yet another 4,000 to 5,000 students tailgating to the sound of R&B, Reggae, Jazz, and Pop music and then to smell a variety of international cuisines competing with the smell of French fries.
The weather was perfect, and Howard University won. It almost made me want to cry to know the harm that has been done over the years, and is still being done by mainstream media against HBCUs.
After attending Howard’s Homecoming, I realized that I have no answer for why I as a father did not encourage my daughters to attend an HBCU. But now that my daughters are grown, what is important to me is my current desire to contribute to the ongoing success of HBCUs going forward. I am so appreciative and inspired by schools like Howard. It was institutions like Howard, North Carolina A&T, Tuskegee, Hampton, Tennessee State, and others that took the lead in the wake of desegregation to ensure that people of color had the opportunity to become the professionals who advance the economic and social health of urban America.
So, my resolve today is to say thank you to Howard University and other HBCUs that have done so much for the advancement of colored people. Moving forward, we should all be inspired by the work before us to help America move forward by encouraging corporations to look to HBCUs to bring much needed diversity to their workplaces. If corporations really want to help bridge the diversity gap, they can start by making endowments to HBCUs that foster innovation, science, technology, engineering, arts and math. So yes, I choose and am committed to taking the opportunity to use my professional experience as one who has not attended an HBCU, but did attend this year’s Howard University homecoming, to convince industry, institutions, and government to have an “Open Mind” about what needs to happen to make sure these young people attending HBCU’s have the very best opportunity to compete head to head with Harvard, Stanford and Yale. It is also my hope that the leadership of HBCU’s work tirelessly to over come the perception of mediocrity, and commit to a standard of excellence in education, to prepare the minds of young black men and women to become an invaluable contribution to the 21st century. I saw a hope on the Howard campus that can become the epitome of excellence and pride. After attending Howard’s Homecoming, I, for one, am even more inspired to support the goals of HBCUs, and now encourage you to do so as well.