I love my HBCU… both of them.

A recent episode of an award-winning sitcom highlighted a portrayal of Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCUs) that is directly related to our work at The Key Consulting Firm. Too often Americans underestimate the impact of HBCUs on individual students, the Black community globally, and the United States as a nation. Attending an HBCU has completely shaped how I practice as a clinician. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am first-generation born American of West African immigrants. My identity development as a Black American has not been the same as my multi-generational Black American peers. I often say that I obtained my Black card during my time at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. From a young age, I knew I wanted to be in the field of education working with Black students. At that time I was moving toward African children, but I wasn’t entirely aware of the vast differences and similarities between the two cultural groups. My time at Cheyney shaped how I view my potential impact on my community. Black culture, identity, and history were embedded in all content areas and subject matters. As a person of African descent living in a European dominant country, our culture, systems, and history are rarely taught through traditional schooling. I attended Catholic School throughout K-12, so Cheyney was the first time I was taught about myself and those who came before me in a formal educational setting.

Why are there colleges just for Black people?

This is a question that I often hear when I tell non-Black people that I attended a historically Black university. Please remember any racial group can attend an HBCU. Understanding the need for HBCUs requires recalling the history of the United States and their relationship with Black people. I don’t need to go into a history lesson of antebellum America, but Black people throughout the United States could not attend universities now referred to as predominantly White institutions (PWIs). Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, my alma mater and the oldest HBCU in the US, was started as an institute for Black youth in 1837 almost 30 years before the emancipation of enslaved Black people. Lincoln University, another HBCU was founded in 1854, also before the legal end of slavery. During slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow, segregation, and the other federal policies which have systematically disenfranchised the Black community, HBCUs have been providing formal higher education and cultural pride to anyone regardless of their race. Prominent global change agents have attended HBCUs including, Martin Luther King Jr., Kwame Nkrumah (the first president of Ghana), and Albert Beckham (the first Black school psychologist). Octavius Catto was influential in getting voting rights for Black people, he attended Cheyney University and is the only Black historical figure to have a status in the city of Philadelphia.

My favorite School Psychologist also went to an HBCU!

While attending Bowie State University, I prepared a research poster for the local School Psychology association’s conference. My co-presenter was LaTrice Dowtin, and our collaboration during the poster was like magic. Now, she and I almost move on the same wavelength as multiple credentialed clinicians. Due to our training at Bowie State, we have on permanent “cultural lenses” at all time. This shift in paradigm enhances our clinical skills, and we currently spend much time talking about mental health, education, and development with a cultural framework. Thank goodness for unlimited minutes.

5 Reasons HBCUs are still needed.

1. HBCUs are particularly successful at retaining and graduating low-income students, currently graduating more low-income students than PWIs (NPR).

2. Although HBCUs were established to serve Black students, they currently have very diverse enrollment statistics with students of all races and ethnicities along with international students.

3. The majority of the United States’ tenured Black faculty are at historically black colleges/universities (Washington Post).

4. HBCUs have beautiful historical values and traditions.

5. Lastly, the United States has not yet established educational equity for culturally diverse learners; therefore, we still need higher education systems that are committed to serving disenfranchised individuals.

Did you attend or are attending a historically Black university or college? If so, write the name of your university and your favorite memory in the comments below.


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