Monday, February 1, 2010

The Black College Experience: Get Understanding!



"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; she will bring you honor, when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory she will deliver to you." Proverbs 4:7-9

It really doesn't matter if you attended a PWI (Predominately White Institution) or a HBCU (Historically Black College & University). Maybe you didn't go to college at all. Although I am a major supporter and proud graduate of two HBCU's, I accept that the education was set apart from the experience. My mother brags to her friends and family, "I may have never attended a black college, but I had the experience; that I can promise you." What is the experience you ask? The experience is simply this, Proverbs 4:7-9. Wisdom is the principal thing. My education gave me a degree, an opportunity to learn, and a chance to advance my career. My experience, gave me understanding, and yes... wisdom.

The history and purpose of a black college is one all people can experience. If you visit the campus of Clark Atlanta, Talladega, Lincoln or Tuscaloosa, you can easily get the feeling of rich history and wisdom. The chipped statues, the old smell of the library, and the battered paintings all demonstrate the black experience like no other. These institutions are historic physically. Under funded, under ranked, under supported, and misunderstood. Some even say, "There is no longer a purpose for such a place. Modernity says so." But the truth is, if your history is shut up, shut down, left behind, so is your wisdom.

Black people have been piecing together a history for the last 100+ years. Therefore we have to maintain purpose in such places as black colleges. They don't just tell our history. The experience of a Fisk art gallery or a Howard special collections reminds us of the real truths of black history. Unfortunately, many of our children do not know about and have no interest in. And if we don't want to go back to our history, I suggest we take time to remember and experience; at least by visiting our nearest HBCU.

What would happen if one day you picked up a sack, threw it on your back, and said, "I am going there, and no one or nothing can stop me." Then along the way, after conversing with others, getting new garments, and new ideas, you totally forgot where you were headed. Then you think to yourself, "I know, I will just go in a different direction. There I will go, no one or nothing will stop me." But again, you get carried away with encountering new adventures, new concepts, new ways, and you are forced to make that grueling decision again, because you lose your way. You say, "I forgot my destination again, I suppose I will start in this direction this time." Once again you are convinced, persuaded by the world to look through a more colorful lens than perhaps you own; yet one last time, you find yourself on a strange and familiar path. Headed to the same place, which is the wrong way. You determine, "This time, I will write down as best I can remember where I have been, even if I have to go back a little to ask. That way, I will not repeat mistakes. Like never before, I want to reach that destination, no matter how many new things I encounter. This time, I will get there. This time I will remember."

History is not something we can afford to forget. We have to remember it. Black colleges will be waiting to deliver understanding to my nieces, nephews and some day children of Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Caucasian, Native American and African American descent. Whether it be a visit, an education, or their children's education. When they walk the pathways of Spelman and hills of Hampton, they will remember that part of them that was enslaved, broken, chained, imprisoned, and set free. The stigma's still exist. The reality of racism still exist. We all have to face it. Go visit the HBCU nearest to you this month. It helps us all to reflect on who we are, so we can become better. That is what our ancestors wanted for us. That is what God wants for us.

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