You went to a PWI…PERIOD
I recently read an article by Sesali Bowen called “I went to a PWI and still had a black college experience.” Initially, I was quite flabbergasted by the title.
( Like BISH WHET)
I went to FAMU, for my undergraduate degree and obtained my Master’s degree from a non-HBCU university. Anywho, I decided to give the article a read, because I couldn’t imagine there being much validity behind the title. I happened to be right.
(go on…tell me more)
The author had reduced the experience that molded myself and countless others to fried chicken days and spades tournaments, “hood antics” and step shows. As these are the only things black people know how to do no matter where they are. The delusional and diluted version of being segregated in the middle of Illinois pales in comparison to the dynamic in which HBCU students experience. Here are a few reasons why…The author states that “Even at a school that was the pinnacle of whiteness, I still had a black college experience.”
It is impossible to even make this statement because HBCU’s are to black people what the rest of America is to white people…It’s made for us. We walk around the campus with the same authority white officers walk the streets of America, safely and freely. There is no black student union to make sure that black students are treated up to the standard with white organizations, because at our schools BLACK STUDENTS ARE THE STANDARD.
Representation matters. While she frolicked in the idea of being surrounded by a minute fraction of the student population that was black, I relished in the waves of black professors, doctors, lawyers, provost, and black staff. Most of which, were activists who marched and fought for her benefit to attend a PWI and still chose to teach at a HBCU. I genuinely felt that my professors really cared about my success, they gave me the game, and prepared me for the real world.
She references a homecoming for black people as a subsidiary list of events from the majority of the campus and Midwesterners coming from all over to see the black greek step show. Whereas Homecoming at a black school is Christmas come early. There is nothing like watching people who graduated from your school in the 80’s join the marching band on the field and relive their golden years. The halftime show is the real main event.
Two main things she neglected to mention further indicated to me that her “black experience” was perhaps a farce, black love and the essence of blackness. For some of us, HBCU’s were the first place we saw successful black love! It was not The Cosbys.
It was literally a black doctor and a lawyer who dated, had been sharing swipes in “the cafe” since freshman year, arguing on “the Set,” holding each other down one net check at time, graduating and getting married.
Her abatement of black culture to sewn in weaves and Flamin Hot Cheetos additionally exemplified how inundating yourself in white culture will narrow your lens of what blackness is. Blackness is too vast to be explained, especially in a 500 word blog. My freshman year my dorm mate was a black girl from Bermuda. (Quiet as it’s kept I didn’t even know Bermuda was country just thought it was a triangle people got missing in). I met a boy Nigerian guy who taught me about Suya. And I saw DC people (dressed in the brightest vintage fits) jamming to “go-go,” a fast paced music, I’d never heard of, doing footwork I couldn’t duplicate. Blackness is whatever it wants to be! For the first time in life, I was human, I came first, I mattered.
Saying you went to a white school and had a black experience is like saying you have black friends so you understand black struggles.
For most HBCU Alumni, I think we can say that (in some cases for the first time, perhaps even the only time) we were in a place, where everything and everyone around us was geared for our success. The trials and tribulations, unity in strife, and intimate networks we built all played an essential role in who we are today. It is impossible to profoundly grasp it without living it, and you ma’am have not lived it.
I went to an HBCU…#ibragdifferent