Picture this: tubas slowly blaring with an accompaniment of chiming cymbals. In front of them, girls in outfits that shine more than stars in the night sky whip their hair through the air. As the tubas rumble on, the trumpets sound off to get the crowd rocking in unison. Do you picture Bearcat Stadium? I don’t.
My head hosts the Fabulous Dancing Dolls of Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I hear the sound of the “Human Jukebox” and the crowd screaming along with it.
Historically Black colleges and universities are notorious for these game day atmospheres and impressive marching band performances, but they offer much more than stellar halftime performances.
In my opinion, HBCUs are places where Black students find a sense of community and grow their intelligence with people who can better cater to their cultural backgrounds.
After touring a list of schools over spring break of my sophomore year of high school, I vowed to attend one of these universities. That didn’t turn out as I planned.
Deciding to attend Northwest, a predominately white institution, wasn’t easy for me nor did it feel like the right decision. It almost felt like I was betraying myself, betraying my Black identity. Originally, I was dead set on going to Jackson State in Jackson, Mississippi, to study journalism and achieve my dream of being HBCU-educated.
At a PWI, I feel like an oddity — as I’ve stated in previous columns — but touring the campus of HBCUs I never felt like I was getting strange looks, and they felt more comforting. Initially, I thought coming to a PWI would make it harder to connect with my Black identity and feel comfortable with expressing that piece of my soul.
I also had this idea that if I went to an HBCU, I could finally prove that I’m Black. Like there was no better pinnacle of Blackness than to go to a predominately Black school. Thankfully, I was wrong. For the most part.
At Northwest, I’ve been presented with opportunities that I’m not completely sure I’d get somewhere like Southern, Jackson State or even the MIAA’s own Lincoln University. For one, I’ve gotten the opportunity to create this column with the intention of diversifying readers’ exposure.
At an HBCU, it's more likely that everybody has the same stories, and that's the antithesis of journalism. Here, I’m able to branch out to people who haven’t heard about the Black experience and start conversations about it.
As backwards as it sounds, I think Maryville has aided in the growth of my Black identity. Being around people that are different from me challenges me to learn more about my heritage and learn specifically why or how I’m different. It’s like when you don’t realize you’re breathing until somebody obviously points out that you are. You don’t think about being Black until you’re reminded that you are, indeed, Black.
Even with the blessings I’ve received here at Northwest, I still find myself wondering what it would be like to have enrolled at Jackson State. I wonder if I’d feel even more Black than I do now, or if I would just feel like any ordinary person. I wonder if I missed out on an opportunity of a lifetime.
However, I’m happy to make a way for other people to speak up and bring a little awareness about underrepresented cultures on campus.
I may not be surrounded by people who look like me, think like me or experience the same things I do, but I know there are people like me. Here, on campus, there’s a Black community, and I’m a part of it. We may not be the largest, but I believe that means we’re just blazing the trail for future students to do what we’ve done and more.