I am a proud HBCU graduate. An NCCU Eagle. I graduated from North Carolina Central University in 1993. NCCU was good for me; it did exactly what higher ed scholars and alumni say that HBCUs do – – it helped me better understand my history, love my black self, build my leadership self-confidence and convinced me that anything was possible. I flourished at NCCU in ways I don’t imagine I would have at a PWI particularly after graduating from W.G. Enloe Gifted and Talented public high school where most of my classmates were not Black. I graduated from NCCU as the top English major and as the outgoing “Shut Em Down” SGA president who served as voting member of the Board of Trustees. That summer, our President, the esteemed civil rights attorney, Julius Chambers, got nine of us in the White House ad members of Clinton’s first intern class.
Going to NCCU, thanks to the guidance of Professors Chambers and Sanders, allowed me to pursue a “free” graduate degree from UMCP in English, which proved to by a serendipitous opportunity in light of my White House internship and the fact that my grandparents resided in Silver Spring, MD. As a result of my internship at the White House, I worked on education policy for Bobby Scott as a CBCF fellow and as a program analyst assigned to the HBCUs in North Carolina for the White House Initiative on HBCUs from 1993-1996. After teaching English as a faculty member at Montgomery Community College|Rockville and the University of Cincinnati’s College Access and Transition Program, known to it’s fans and foes alike as “the CAT,” I worked as a student affairs and enrollment management professional at Central State University from 2008-2014.
Thus, my passion and love for HBCUS is based on feelings and facts. I remember my nights in the sweat box and Mr. D’s night club. I remember sneaking into the Farris Newton Communications building to finish my papers in the computer lab. I remember the 10:40 hour, homecoming predawns and ever clear punch. I remember protesting the Rodney King verdict and running up and down I-40 in my VW Gulf to NCA&TSU to about an Aggie boy. At the same time, I am well versed on current higher education practice and policy. The good. The bad. And, sadly, the ugly. And, boy, has it gotten ugly. I come to this not only with nostalgia and memories of days gone by but with an understanding of what has happened in higher education for HBCUs in particular and the sector in general over the past 20 plus years.
So, yeah, I do really have a frame of reference when I assert that living in Senegal is like going to an HBCU. Here’s how: