HBCU Grad t-shirt by Urban Argyle (174349)
Credit: Cyril Josh Barker

EDITORS NOTE: This opinion piece was originally published in 2015

Those who know me know that I am a strong advocate for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU). Many people ask why I graduated from one and why I am such a strong supporter for all HBCUs.

It had to be the year before my senior year of high school, shortly after my mother and I had a long discussion about my choices for college. One of the choices she asked about was the idea of attending an HBCU.

A representative from Fisk University came to my high school to discuss college told us about a woman in our community who was doing a tour of Black colleges in the South during spring break. I became so excited about the trip and asked my mother if I could go.

Now, at this point in my life, I knew what the letters “HBCU” stood for and had some knowledge about what they were. I grew up watching “A Different World,” and I watched Spike Lee’s movie “School Daze.” I had also visited Langston University, the only HBCU in Oklahoma, where I was living at the time, on a couple of school trips.

Upon hearing the news that I wanted to go on the HBCU tour, my mother happily obliged. That spring, several of my friends and I spent one week on the roads of the nation traveling to schools, including Jackson State University, Hampton University, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Spelman College and Tennessee State University.

I learned that each college had a significant role in our history, from slave time to today. I saw bright young Black students learning and reaching their goals, all while keeping the style of our culture. However, one school stuck out the most to me, becoming the school I would eventually decide to attend that fall: Alabama State University (ASU).

My days at ASU are a time I treasure so much I wish I would relive sometimes. I remember my instructors, who believed and encouraged me in everything I wanted to do; my friends, who supported and took care of me whenever I needed anything; and learning with other African-Americans from across the nation, who all had a goal of changing our experience in a nation that continues to treat us unjustly. Our professors often reminded us of our history, along with our responsibilities to our people after graduation.

My Black college experience was one that made me the person I am today. I was looked at as a person, not a number or a minority quota. I wasn’t stereotyped or judged and I had a community of people who I continue to turn to, to this day. I learned about my culture and gained such a strong sense of self that I wear it like a badge of honor that no one can take away.

Since my graduation from ASU in 2006, I have taken every opportunity I can to tell young people and their families about the joy of the Black college experience. We must support and preserve our HBCUs so that the next generation can benefit from them.