Just look at that picture. That’s Robert Franklin, president of Morehouse College, beefing. How many school presidents do that shit?
But really, I love the fall. It’s my favorite season, and traditionally has been one of roadtripping to various homecomings and such. My father went to NC A&T, and as anyone from here knows, their homecoming is something of a black cultural event in and around North Carolina. I’ve been to at least 15 different HBCU’s homecomings, and of course I just got back from the best one, the Spelman and Morehouse (Spelhouse) homecoming. It saves lives. I won’t recap too much here (because honestly I can’t remember), but I know that I had an amazing time. I also know that the other big homecomings this weekend (Howard and Hampton) were loved as well, as was A&T’s a week ago. On the drive back as I sorted through my thoughts, though, I think I finally realized why these events are so special.
I go to a PWI (predominantly white institution) for graduate school, and the atmosphere is totally different from Morehouse. I get caught up in the “are HBCUs necessary?” debate every few weeks and it seems like the sides never give any ground to each other. I understand the argument from the one side that HBCUs have low graduation rates and funding, and generally are less efficient at producing graduates than PWIs, which is especially more resounding since the issues of discrimination at PWIs are much less pronounced than before. I also understand the counterargument that HBCUs as a whole produce black graduates who get graduate degrees and work in high paying and high demand fields at higher rates than PWI counterparts. But after this weekend, I’m not sure that either one of those is important.
What is important? Quite honestly, HBCUs are the last real remaining black-owned representation of black culture. In an age where our music and TV are co-opted by the mainstream, and everything that sells from us must be accepted by the mainstream first, HBCUs are one of the last places where honest and unabashed Blackness can be expressed. They hold the last line of our culture. While many PWIs may have more resources or money or professors with PhDs or famous alumni, I think that Black culture and an appreciation and responsibility of a mission beyond academics are resources that HBCUs have in greater supply than PWIs. I finally realized that this weekend when I was completely at home with being both educated and unashamedly black. I beefed it up with my president, ate my fried chicken and didn’t have to worry about being judged any the worse for it, but I also had conversations about politics and the housing crash and religion. HBCUs are one of the only places in society where this can happen on this level now. I’m convinced.
This is not me disparaging PWIs. Everything has a purpose, and my first and second choice schools were PWIs (luckily for me, my dad vetoed my decisions). I love being at UNC now, and I am receiving educational experiences and career opportunities that Morehouse simply could not have provided me. Most of my friends here attended PWIs in undergrad. However, this is me saying that for all the advantages at PWIs, HBCUs offer something that can’t be duplicated: they offer an intimate connection to that sense of Blackness which is at one with itself without the need for a lens of the double consciousness. They are a bit of a “bubble,” but they offer something that cannot be offered as wholly elsewhere, a place to be comfortable with all parts of our Blackness. And I think we all should experience a little bit of it.
At least at a homecoming or two.