Why I’ll Never Apologize for Attending an HBCU
Throughout my adolescent years, I attended nothing but predominantly white schools. Because of this, I rarely got the opportunity to know anything about my culture. If it were not Black History Month, my school did not teach me anything about the accomplishments and life of African-Americans. In many ways, I internalized this and dismissed my culture before learning about it. I only wanted to hang out with my white counterparts and believed that racism and discrimination didn’t exist. It was a myth in my mind.
Although I thought racism and discrimination was a myth, I still felt like I had to compete and prove my intelligence to my white counterparts. I tried to stay at the top of the pack with them. For me this meant banishes all things that referenced to Black culture: music, movies, history, schools, etc.
When it was time to apply for colleges, I did not even entertain the thought of going to an HBCU. The idea of going to a school for four years with the majority of Black people scared me. I had heard so many of my white counterparts say, “Black schools are in the hood” or “You’ll get shot if you go” and my white guidance counselor dismiss HBCUs as worthy enough institutions numerous times that I made it up in my mind I would never go to an HBCU. But then I got rejected from most of my “dream” schools because my applications were not “strong.” I did not understand why. I had the grades, the recommendations, and pretty decent SAT scores. Why did the schools reject me? I felt defeated. Staying at the top of the “pack” and banishing all things Black culture didn’t help me like I thought it would.
My spirits were lifted when an admissions representative from Winston-Salem State University visited my high school. He praised the university and encouraged me to apply. I thought if my “dream” schools were not going to take a chance on me, maybe WSSU and schools like it would. So, I applied to WSSU and several other HBCUs and got into all of them with no hesitation. I decided to choose WSSU as my future institution because it was not too far from home and the effect the admissions representative had on me during our interaction.
All summer until my first semester, I was excited to go to WSSU. Two of my best friends were going so it made me more comfortable with the idea of being away from home. But a week before I was scheduled to move in, I got cold feet. The things my white counterparts and guidance counselor said were creeping back into my thoughts. I told my mom I would go for one semester and the very first opportunity I got, I was going to transfer to a PWI.
My mom pulled up to my dorm, Moore Hall, in August of 2009 and without hesitation, my fear left my whole body. Seeing so many people who looked like me in one setting made me smile. It was the first time I had felt at peace about who I was as a young Black person in America. I felt welcomed and at home. All the negative things I had let creep into my subconscious and the constant dismissal of my culture did not matter anymore. I was finally in a place where there would be no discrimination or underlying hate because of the color of my skin.
During my time at WSSU, I learned things about my culture I would have NEVER learned about if I went to a PWI. While I was in the classrooms with my Black brothers and sisters, I was not afraid to speak up because I felt like we were all in this together. I did not feel like someone was constantly trying to one-up me or that I had to fight to prove how smart I am. My classmates and professors, even outside of my major, made me feel worthy and intelligent.
It is true that attending an HBCU is like one big family reunion. It is an indescribable feeling. I could not possibly explain to you what my HBCU experience meant to me. My HBCU saved my life. It saved me from being an Uncle Ruckus. I embraced my culture from the music to the literature. I know I would not have done that if I attended at PWI.
I’ll never apologize for attending an HBCU because it was my wake-up call. I needed my experience to find out who I was because I did not know who I was or who I wanted to be before. I was lost in a sea of whiteness. My HBCU saved me from drowning.
I walk around every day basking in my glory knowing I attended an HBCU. I am confident in a way that I have never been before in my life. Anytime someone asks me where I attended, I make sure to tell them I attended an HBCU and I say it with pride.
Thank you, Winston-Salem State University for giving me the best five years of my life. I did not know what love was until I met you. Nothing will ever compare. You made me believe in myself and my intelligence. Because of you, I walk around with my head held up high. I know I am a force to be reckoned with thanks to you. I love you for everything you taught me and more.
I am forever HBCU made. I’ll never disrespect where I came from because my HBCU helped me find my voice. I am who I am today because I took a leap of faith and attended an HBCU.