ABC Network needs to shed some light for all that shade they threw at HBCUs…
One of the best decisions I ever made was leaving my PWI (Predominantly White Institution) and going to an HBCU (Historical Black Colleges and University). I can’t say HBCUs were my first choice because I had no idea they exist! Growing up in the midwest, in Minnesota to be exact, there was very little I was exposed to regarding academic choice.
Embarrassing enough, I didn’t grow up watching shows like “A Different World”. When “The Cosby Show” started airing in 1984, I wasn’t even a thought. When they discontinued it, I was two years away from being born. Will Smith on the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” would be seen rocking an occasional Howard U or FAMU hoodie, but out of all of the African American television sitcoms to ever give us those family feels and academic choice… “A Different World” takes the cake.
In early May of 2017, Blackish was birthed; which is the new sitcom that centers on an upper-middle-class African American family. Although, well after my collegiate career, I’ve been following this show. Long enough to see the eldest, Zoey, graduate high school and go to Cal U – where ABC has so graciously given her a spinoff, “Grownish”. Also, long enough to see the second eldest, Andre (Junior), start making decisions on where he’d like to continue his collegiate career.
If you watched this week’s latest episode, you had the opportunity to see Junior make a big decision between Stanford and Howard University (An HBCU and his father’s Alma Mater). While Junior’s father was all “gung ho” about his baby boy continuing in his foot steps, his mother, Bow, was the least bit excited about it and actually… worried.
As I recall, Bow said something to the effect of “black people who graduate from HBCUs have a hard time reintegrating into society”. While some may appreciate the opposing view, this is actually more harmful than it is helpful… along with the least bit true. Junior’s visit to Howard was eye opening and something that he had never seen before. He instantly loved the vastness of the institution and that it was a safe place for all types of black people to advance while being their authentic self.
After the airing of “The Cosby Show” until the end of “A Different World”, American higher education grew by 16.8 percent. Around that same time, HBCU enrollment grew by 24.3 percent (44 percent better than all of higher education). 11 years after “A Different World” ended, all of higher education grew at a whopping 20.7 percent while HBCUs grew only 9.2 percent.
There hasn’t been a television series or sitcom since then that really captures the essence of life at these very enriched Historical Black Colleges and Universities and now ABC, Blackish, has an opportunity to do something about it.
Yes HBCUs struggle, but their alumni DON’T
It is no hidden fact that HBCUs are underfunded and underrepresented, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of education and the actual experience received at these esteemed institutions. It is and will always be what we make it. This is a first rate education! NOT somewhere you send your daughter or son as a “last resort”. We have a long and illustrious history of offering African American students, along with whoever else, a world-class education. Oprah Winfrey, Lance Gross, Taraji P. Henson, Sean “puff daddy” Combs, Spike Lee, Phylicia Rashad, and many others are the by-products of HBCUs.
CHECK THE STATS: HBCUs Are Responsible For…
75% of all Black PHD’s
46% of Black Business Executives
50% of Black Engineers
80% of Black Federal Judges
85% of all Black Doctors
50% of Black Attorneys
75% of Black Military Officers
40% of Black Dentist
50% of Black Pharmacist
75% of Black Veterinarians
“Ain’t Nobody Going to Hug You Like an HBCU”
I remember being at an HBCU forum and one of the mother’s of a student who currently attends an HBCU said, “I’m so happy with the decision my son made because ain’t no other institution going to hug my son like an HBCU will” and that immediately hit home. I could relate to those feelings of stepping onto campus and feeling like you have arrived at a family reunion. The energy and spirit is undeniable, the network and possibilities are endless, and you genuinely feel like the staff make it their duty to prepare you for life after college. It’s like you’re inheriting a whole new set of parents on orientation day – not necessarily the ones to hold your hand, but more so guide and push you.
All in all, it’s very disheartening to have to continuously combat all of these stigmas surrounding our HBCUs, but the bottom line is, the only way we’ll be able to change the view is by encouraging others to actively do their research. Most of these opinions and idealizations come from individuals who aren’t the most enlightened about our founding and development. ABC has a real shot at derailing some of these stigmas and portraying these institutions for what they are.
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