When I look back on my life and all the things I have done, I’m telling y’all, the greatest decision I have ever made—hands down—was attending an HBCU. It still gives me chills just thinking about how empowered and proud and happy I felt that Black culture was the norm. I remember the days as a cheerleader, putting my fist up to the flag while “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was played before every basketball game. From Fried-chicken Thursdays to chilling on the yard with the best DJs mixing all night, attending an HBCU was like having the biggest non-stop cookout all year long. And homecoming? That was the family reunion!
I don’t care how many times you watched Drumline or reruns of A Different World, an HBCU isn’t just an institution of higher learning, it’s a cultural experience. What’s crazy is that going to an HBCU wasn’t even my first choice, but I’m so glad it was my final choice. In all fairness, the reason going to an HBCU wasn’t my first choice is because it wasn’t embedded in me to do so.
Yes, I went to Delaware State University, but I’m from New Jersey, and the North does not honor HBCUs the same way the South does. I definitely see a lot of improvement and awareness on the East Coast in 2023, thanks to the rise of social media, but it was not really engrained in us culturally or historically as Black people in the community. My parents not attending HBCUs didn’t really help either. When I lived in Atlanta, I came to realize early on that HBCU life was embraced throughout the community, from the leadership on down. This is why when people ask, I tell them: I did not choose the HBCU life, the HBCU life chose me.
Remember I told y’all I grew up in a very conservative religious family? Well, my mother wasn’t really down with the whole “staying at other people’s houses thing” nor going to events that didn’t involve God. I literally missed every single school dance—including prom—because if Fred Hammond wasn’t being played and prayers weren’t going up, my mother wasn’t with it at all. Anyways, the only place I could be a kid and hang out with other kids was at my home church, The 1st Seventh-Day Adventist Church of Glassboro. My church had a very good drummer from Camden who’d played drums his entire life, and he decided to start a drum corps for us youth.
Y’all know if I am involved in it, I take it serious. So immediately I picked up the base and the quads and started to really become skilled in playing. I also noticed that my drum corps director would name every beat we had after colleges: Morgan State, FAMU, CAU, Hampton, A&T… My favorite beat was Del State; I thought it had the best choreography, too. There was something about that beat that used to get the crowd going. I asked my drum corps leader why he called the beat Del State, and that’s when he told me that each beat was named after HBCUs where the best players play.
I originally attended a private Adventist college in Maryland but couldn’t afford it. So, during my transfer search I remembered that beat I loved so much—the one my drum corps director taught us; without hesitation I applied to Del State, and the rest was history. Now, I know a lot of people are probably thinking it was insane to choose a college based off a beat, but I choose to believe it was alignment.
My HBCU gave me hope and helped me maximize my fullest potential. As a Black woman, DSU gave me a different outlook on myself in the global market. I was the first campus activity board president, a residential assistant, a cheerleader, and on women’s senate; and although I lost Miss DSU, I later became Miss Black New Jersey and 1st runner up in the Miss Black America Pageant. All because of my HBCU. The beat that represented DSU, it also represented me. It helped me identify all that I could become. Thanks to my HBCU, I never looked at myself from the lens of setbacks in this country, only comebacks. There is so much power in the influence HBCUs have on the world. If I didn’t choose an HBCU, I probably wouldn’t be where I am Today.
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