Thursday, October 29, 2020

HBCU Experience In 2020.

October 13, 2020 by  
Filed under Education, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( There is a nearly unavoidable danger that creeps up on us so smoothly that we neither recognize its arrival nor its presence. Yet, each of us is susceptible to this evil and the vast majority of us will fall victim to it. The danger that I am referring to results from spending too much time within a self-advantageous echo chamber that allows for us to make sense of the world.

I must admit to having found a comfortable echo chamber that fits my needs and interests. The foremost by-product of this dilemma has been conclusions regarding how I could best serve emerging generations of Black America.

While reading a recent post by former student Adrienne Cain, I was taken aback that after making a presentation to a group of high school students, many raised questions about a shirt that she strategically chose to wear. Emblazoned across the front of the shirt were the words Prairie View A&M University; Ms. Cain’s alma mater. To Ms. Cain’s surprise and my chagrin, the majority of students sitting in front of her had never heard of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The cornerstone of the Black middle-class and most reliable path to Black uplift.

In the new millennium, I never thought that the promotion of H.B.C.U.’s would be necessary. Yet, here we are once again. This issue has proven to be so bothersome that I eventually searched my mental Rolodex for an answer to the following question.

hbcu experience

When did I learn about H.B.C.U.’s?   

Before I can answer the relatively simple question, I must explain a few things about my upbringing. Although I am from the great state of Ohio, a state where two H.B.C.U.’s exist, neither of my parents attended college. I was also not fortunate to have a blood relative who had attended college and was willing to offer any guidance regarding my desire to pursue a secondary education. Put simply; my exposure to secondary education was non-existent.

While my parents were incapable of providing first-hand testimony regarding the collegiate experience, God made provisions in that area.

I was fortunate to have been raised within a community where black teachers eagerly stepped into existing gaps that I and my peers working-class parents could not. A push toward higher-education was such an area. In hindsight, I cannot recall a moment of my K-12 tenure that I did not hear the familiar refrain of “you are going to college” from some Black educator. Ms. Jones, my sixth-grade teacher, took it a step further and refused to grade subpar work. I cringe at the repetitive experience of having ungraded work returned to me adorned with the blazing red words of “This is not college-level work, DO IT AGAIN!!!!!” The reconstruction of my formative educational moments would be woefully incomplete if they did not include Mr. Rick Roberson, the most important influence in my current status.

My response to the above question of “When did I learn about H.B.C.U.’s?” is an unbelievably specific one as I can tell you the exact date and moment that I was exposed to the Black college experience. It was Thursday, September 24th (1987) at 8:30 EST when A Different World debuted. I know that it was a Thursday because The Cosby Show came on every Thursday at 8:00 EST. And of course, it was through that iconic show that droves of Black students such as myself were introduced to fictitious Hillman College and the illustrious H.B.C.U. world.

Although other factors swayed me away from attending an H.B.C.U. during my collegiate years, I often wonder how different my life would have been had I made a different choice. As a professor at Prairie View A & M University, an H.B.C.U., I can now attest to the indispensability of Black Colleges to the development of Black students. From my vantage point, Black Colleges and Universities are the primary sources of racial uplift and hope for the eventual achievement of racial equality.

When one considers the overwhelming influence of media on the minds of our nation, particularly the youth; it may be time for a resurfacing of a Different World. It is imperative that Black students are exposed to every potential avenue of uplift as they navigate a world that may prove less than accommodating to their hope, dreams, and aspirations. Regardless of what many naysayers may think, the H.B.C.U. remains the primary gateway to a different world for poor and working-class Black students.

The time has come that every Black student understands the true meaning behind the words that opened every episode of A Different World.

I know my parents love me,
Stand behind me come what may.
I know now that I’m ready,
Because I finally heard them say
It’s a different world than where you come from.

Here’s a chance to make it,
If we focus on our goals.
If you dish it we can take it,
Just remember you’ve been told
It’s a different world,
It’s a different world,
Than where you come from
Than where you come from

As a professor at Prairie View A&M University, I can attest to the above lyrics and encourage others to learn more about and propagate the H.B.C.U. for future generations. Because it is truly a different world from where you come from.

Staff Writer; Dr. James Thomas Jones III

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One may also connect with this brother via TwitterDrJamestJones.

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