For many, February is a month of special celebration. Black History Month allows us to celebrate Black culture and commemorate pioneers who’ve paved the way for a brighter future. The 28-day month gives us time to focus on the impact Black people have had on American culture.
Over the years, Black pioneers have created opportunities for the advancement of Black people, fighting for voting rights, improved education and equality. One of the most important contributions of them all includes improving the foundation of education by building historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
During my senior year of high school, I often thought about where I would attend college. After thinking long and hard about it, I decided to further my education at an HBCU. I knew choosing an HBCU would not only allow me to learn more about my culture, but it would surround me with other individuals who looked like me. At Florida A&M, I knew I would be coming into an environment where each student would challenge one another. Before college, I always attended schools that were predominantly white. I had the feeling that I was being overlooked in the classroom, so I soon realized I wanted to attend a school where I wasn’t just a number.
Attending an HBCU is important to me because of the power of networking. Throughout my collegiate career, I’ve connected with many people all over the world who have become friends. Coming into college as a first-generation student, I wasn’t familiar with the process of connecting with others in my field. Luckily with the help of my professors and mentors, I was able to meet new people and join student-led organizations. Since my time here at Florida A&M, I have joined the Women’s Student Union, FAMU chapter of NAACP and Girls 2 Girls mentoring group.
In these student-led organizations, I’ve learned the importance of leadership. During campaign season on HBCU campuses, students who aspire to lead run for various student body positions. During these campaigns, you learn about the qualities of a good leader and how one should conduct oneself. At our universities, we are taught to stand tall, be confident and always make our presence known when we’re in a room.
While becoming leaders, it is important to think about those who led before us and those who lead now. Considering today’s business leaders, political figures such as Vice President Kamala Harris, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams represent the power of leadership that HBCUs emphasize.
Moreover, attending an HBCU has taken me out of my comfort zone and has helped me live up to my potential. Here at FAMU, I’ve had the opportunity to be sports editor, sports anchor and the executive producer of a radio show called The Playmakers. Through these roles, I am learning the ins and outs of sports journalism while teaching and helping others along the way.
My HBCU has served as my haven, a place where I can be unapologetically Black. The discussions that take place in our classrooms go beyond the four walls of our illustrious institutions. Instead, we carry them with us into the real world and apply them to our daily lives. Addressing topics such as racism, police brutality and systematic oppression helps us see where we as students can come in and help make a change.
Every time I step on campus, I feel like I belong and I’m protected. After graduating, I will be sure to carry the lessons I’ve learned and apply them to my everyday life. Choosing an HBCU was one of the best decisions I’ve made, and I will forever be grateful for the knowledge my university has instilled in me.
Since the first HBCU that was started in 1837 to now, these 100-plus institutions have evolved and grown. Though funding has not been as generous as with most predominantly white institutions, HBCUs have been able to build bigger athletic facilities, refurbish dorm halls and create scholarships.
The Black creators and founders of HBCUs serve as a reminder of why we celebrate Black History Always. It was their vision that helped build these institutions and contribute to their progress. HBCUs serve a great purpose in today’s society. These institutions help us realize that we are all diverse in many ways, and with the help of everyone, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.