Quantcast

How My HBCU Experience Taught Me To Be Unapologetically Black

Her Voice

As I headed into my senior year of college, I took a congressional internship in D.C.


It was the beginning of a shift in perspective about what it meant to be young, intelligent, and black.

My roommates were three beauties from Howard University. Two were finishing up in Finance and Accounting, while one was on the road to law school. They took me in, introducing me to the mecca of HBCU culture.

I sat in on deep analytical discussions regarding politics and social issues – falling in love with their confidence to speak their thoughts firmly from a black perspective. These women were not intimidated by the stark perceptions that might formulate from their confidence. Nor did they bother to worry about fitting into the small box I was squirming within. They stood tall in their glory and even seemed to flourish in it.

I watched as afros, melanin, and magic erupted into a special type of synergy I'd never knew I longed for. I saw much of the same as I hung out with other HU students who used their perspective to create the type of opportunities for themselves that we all dream of.

Mass communication majors discussed their ideas of unique niches geared toward people of color. Up and coming fashion designers hosted impeccable shows thoughtfully choreographed and marketed for Black audiences. Models planned New York Fashion Week takeovers that would dip the city in brown hues. Students from different regions and socioeconomic backgrounds formed connections with thought leaders who were on the cusp of greatness.

These students won a national network of folks who'd forever be connected to them through a shared HBCU experience. It was priceless.

I watched all of this, a little envious of their ability to walk upright in the coexistence of their ambitions and their culture. Although impressed, I still wasn't fully confident in my ability to do the same.

I went back to my own school, wanting to disappear as everyone waited on my response to cultural conversations or politically charged issues affecting minorities. There was still this thought that I'd be miscategorized based on some action that was foreign to those in my work and social circles – thus I was silent in instances when I had something of value to say.

I was still struggling through how to lean into my confidence as an intelligent black woman. In my mind, one wrong move would label me a stupid misfit and set the entire culture back five decades.

Somehow, I held on to this eerie feeling that the work I did in this world would never amount to anything if I couldn't get people who didn't look like me to feel comfortable with my blackness. And so I shrunk myself – until I enrolled at Southern University for my Masters and Law Degree.

My summer at HU had already laid the foundation for more progressive thoughts. Southern solidified these thoughts. I was surrounded by innovators who were just as well versed in social issues as they were in rap.

Every day as I sat in classrooms, I wasn't just learning from my teachers – I was learning from my peers. The gross representation of intelligent black minds in one room helped me to fully see myself for the first time.

I realized that I wasn't dope in spite of my blackness but because of it.

Instead of feeling compelled to change parts of me that made me different, I began to understand that these differences were what allowed me to add a special type of value and unique perspective. I stopped taking steps away from who I was and leaned into it instead. I looked around in astonishment of all we offer and felt grateful.

I saw inclusion that made me walk a little more upright. It encouraged me to confidently and firmly state my position without pause. I basked in my own type of privilege – nationally known teachers who still cared about going the extra mile for students, study abroad opportunities that expanded my purview of the world, conferences that presented a platform for social change, and classmates who became family.

I started embracing the texture of my hair and the assertive tone of my voice. Through my HBCU experience, I grew proud.

There are those who argue that these institutions are losing their validity. To them I say, the unique value offered by these institutions will never lose its value. HBCUs will forever be a needed incubator for black leaders - a critical support system that allows students to thrive and succeed despite stifling situations.

These universities reinforce the critical message that diversity, inclusion, and pride in our differences is the best way to promote change. The submergence of our minds into supportive environments makes it possible for slews of first generation African-American students to find footing in a world where it may seem many don't get it. These schools groom leaders with the confidence to make a difference by being different.

It is not enough for us to just sit at the table, we must also boldly speak to relevant issues that are often uncomfortable once we get there. HBCUs continue to make that possible by fostering the type of pride, perseverance, and tenacity needed to use our voices for good.

For people like me, who've spent their entire lives submerged in predominantly white experiences, we learn that it's okay to be different without shrinking.

I found a type of self-love that I was missing prior to my attendance at Southern. With it, I am a better version of me – equipped to navigate everything that makes me the right type of leader. In my mind everyone, regardless of race, needs this experience.

Perhaps it can act as a gateway that teaches tolerance and dismantles stereotypes. Maybe it can serve as a type of quasi-minority experience for the majority, which provides new perspective. Or in the alternative, serve as an up close and personal look at the magic engraved in the fabric of our DNA.

Either way, the wealth of knowledge provided by HBCUs is a hidden gem eternally worthy of acknowledgement and praise.

All photos provided by writer Kandice Guice

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissons@xonecole.com

Simone Biles is a decorated U.S. gymnast who captured the hearts of many with her ambitious, yet graceful moves. However, over the past year, fans got to witness another side of Simone after the gymnast began expressing the issues she's faced regarding her mental health. The Olympic gold medalist shocked everyone when she pulled out of some of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games, citing "twisties" as the reason. The twisties is a gymnastics term that is described as losing control of your body while spinning in the air.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

The relationship we have and nurture with self lays the foundation for how we relate to and connect with others in our lives. Assessing the issues that discourage self-love from prospering are key in order to repair and reignite the freedom that comes when we finally believe the words "you are enough." I chatted with self-love advocate and lifestyle entrepreneur Shelah Marie – who you may remember from when her 2017 photo of doing yoga with boyfriend, rapper Ace Hood, went viral. Shelah's mission is to create a movement of total self-love and liberation for women of color through her platform Curvy, Curly, Conscious – a place where "self-help" meets "real talk" through virtual and offline events and retreats.

Keep reading... Show less

The first time I really learned about the five love languages was a year after a big heartbreak in my early twenties, and since then I've found myself exploring the love languages of each of my subsequent partners in an effort to be a better lover to them. At the click of a simple quiz, you'll know whether words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, receiving gifts, or physical touch is the primary way you prefer to experience love.

Keep reading... Show less

At the start of each season, I browse the net to get an idea of the latest styles and trends to look out for when adding to my closet. When shopping, not only do I love items that are hot for the moment but mainly those that I can keep in rotation year after year. I especially look for styles that are both modern and classic, giving off an effortlessly timeless vibe.

Keep reading... Show less

Kissing is such a fascinating thing — to me. The reason why I say that is because, if the person you are exchanging a kiss with is someone who is good at it, it can be the sexiest, most special and most exhilarating thing ever. On the other hand, if they aren't so good — it's just gross. I don't know about y'all, but kissing is such a big deal in my world that I once broke up with someone, in part, because they totally sucked at doing it. It was like, no matter how hard I tried to explain to them what I needed in order to feel like we were in "kissing sync", they would continue to go off and do their own thing. All over my face (yuck).

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

Adrienne Bailon Wants Women Of Color To Take Self-Inventory In Order To Redefine Success

"You can't expect anyone else to care about yourself like you do."

Latest Posts