Howard University 2018 Commencement

Source: NurPhoto / Getty

Attending Spelman College was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I’m not the only POC who feels that way. Throughout my HBCU experience and after graduating in 2012, I heard the exact same sentiment expressed countless times from other HBCU grads. Whether you went to school in the AUC like me, at Hampton University, or any other Historically Black Institution or College, chances are you hold your school near and dear — and with good reason. HBCUs change Black lives with the kind of life and heart teachings you can’t get in a ton of other spaces. Here are some vital lessons we’re all taught during our time on campus.

1. That Our Lives Matter

For so long, Black folks have been written off as criminals and, at best, athletes. Going to an HBCU, where professors who looked like me were invested in my future, reinforced the idea that I am here to contribute to the world in a unique way. And don’t get me wrong, being an athlete or rapper, even, is great … but it isn’t what ALL Black folks aspire to achieve.  I didn’t have to be on alert at all times at Spelman, trying to fit in a world that didn’t accept me — which made me feel important and gave me the opportunity to explore my own needs and dreams.

2. That We Inspire

Don’t get it twisted, y’all. Black folks are some of the most talented, beautiful people to EVER EXIST. When you learn about how much of this nation was built by us and how much of the arts were influenced by us, you start to realize how strong and capable we are as a people. It’s no wonder families like the Kardashians have made careers off of co-opting Black culture — we’re the source and we’re LIT.

African woman at graduation

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3. The Importance of Mentorship

Like many of my friends, I didn’t grow up in the most supportive surroundings. But when I got to college, suddenly there were women and men who looked liked me, dreamed like me, and as mentioned before, were invested in who I’d become. I met geniuses, creatives, and entrepreneurs who would become life-long mentors, who I could always refer back to for advice throughout my journey. Thanks to that experience, I continue to seek mentorship in any big decision I’m making and I never hesitate to share my life experiences with the youth.

4. That Our History Doesn’t Begin With Slavery

Textbooks I encountered growing up very rarely made any mention of who Black people were prior to the slave trade. Slavery and the continued effects of racism are pretty much the only Black existence we get to learn about in our mostly white schools growing up. They don’t want us to know that we were kings and queens with kingdoms and religions of our own. They don’t want us to know that we were rich with art, science, and precious metals. But we were and there’s no reason we can’t get back there.

2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Day March and Rally

Source: Paras Griffin / Getty

5. The Importance In Sticking Together

Divide and conquer isn’t just a saying — it’s part of the methodology used to cripple Black people for countless generations. Going to an HBCU teaches you that other Black men and women are your brothers and sisters… and we actually only win if we come together, despite our differences.

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