Recently, Funky Dineva made a video on how people who went to PWIs (Predominantly White Institute) shouldn’t be looked down upon by people who went to HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges & Universities). I can attest to when I was at the FSU (Florida State University) and heavily using Twitter, every now and then, I would see tweets of FAMU (Florida A&M University, an HBCU)students and FSU students going back and forth on why students sucked at both schools. It was like a silly competition on why one school was better than the other one, when reality we should’ve been rejoicing in the fact that we were seeking a higher education. As a disclaimer, I am in no way shape or form suggesting that the only way to be successful in life is to go to college. There are plenty of trades that people get and they make lots of money, without a college degree!
What is an HBCU? Basically HBCUs came about because back in the day, black students weren’t allowed to go to colleges and universities (thanks racism and segregation). Yes once in a blue moon you’ll hear of a top ranking school letting a black male in but for the most part, if you were black and you wanted to earn a college degree, you were SOL (s**t out of luck). So a group of black educators got together and started HBCUs to educate the students who were denied a right to an education. Today, there are 107 HBCU’s across the country. According to uncf.org, “A whopping 25% of African American graduates with STEM degrees come from HBCUs. Eight HBCUs were among the top 20 institutions to award the most science and engineering bachelor’s degrees to black graduates from 2008-2012. An HBCU graduate can expect to earn an additional $927,000 in their lifetime, which is 56% more than they could expect to earn without their HBCU degrees or certificates.” Talk about black excellence!
Now in Funky Dineva’s video, he mentioned that when he was growing up in Miami (he lived in an inner city area), he didn’t see a lot of people in his day to day life who were college educated. He applied to schools in state to get far away from his family (like me) and went to FSU because he heard that they (students) got their Financial Aid on time. FAMU is notorious for students receiving their financial aid late and I have been a witness to it. Me? It wasn’t a matter of if I go to college, it was a matter of where.
Now, when I was growing up, my grandpa and his family all went to college: FAMU. My aunt went to both FAMU and FSU. I had a cousin who went to FSU…bascially I was surrounded by black college educated folks, which is honestly a blessing. I was told if I wanted a secure job, to go to school for either nursing or education. A lot of women in my family are either in the education field or nursing field.
However, I saw another source of inspiration for a college education: TV! When I was growing up, I watched alot of tv, like I watched too much Tv. Anyway, as many average black kid in America, I grew up watching reruns of shows like Martin, Living Single, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and of course the big one…A Different World (I still gush over Whitley and Dwaynes relationship). Those shows were pivitol in my opinion, for influencing us black and brown folks to shoot for a higher education.
When I was growing up, I was under the impression that college was going to be fun and I was going to have all of these great experiences and party (even though I’m such an introvert” and you know, live life how it played out on TV. As someone who was raised going to FAMU’s homecoming from time to time, I was excited to experience what I saw on TV because of the events that occurred on FAMU’s campus during homecoming weekend. Again, just being in the atmosphere of black collegiets were just normal to me. A Different World, particularly, gave the nation a glimsp of what going to an HBCU is like.
In addition to A Different World, we had shows where while it wasn’t outwardly said verbatum, HBCU’s were being promoted. For example, in earlier seasons of Martin, Martin and Cole’s characters were shown wearing different HBCUs shirts and jackets. On Living Single, same thing, Kadijah James wore HBCU’s pullovers, giving a shout out to the different HBCUs out there. It helped to give these schools exposures and enrollment to these schools during this time were doubling and tripling. Black and brown students started to believe that they could go to school and be successful.
In the 80’s, on the Cosby Show, Cliff Huxtable and Claire and their parents talked about fictional Hillman College very often. The Cosby Show also showed black folks living in middle class for the first time on TV and while some people complained and said it wasn’t realistic, for me (by the way, I watched the reruns growing up) and how I grew up, I identified with it. Finally, a show about a middle class family with college educated parents who both had successful careers as a lawyer and a doctor. They had movies in the 80s that took place on a college campus, School Daze and House Party 2, both of which I’ve seen years years and years later and I thought to myself, wow this is pretty dope!
Now, compare those shows with what we see today. It’s not the same! Nowadays, there’s lots of reality tv (although BET did try their hands at reality tv with the show College Hill, a Real Word like show but on a college campus). We have shows like Real Housewives of Potomac and Atlanta, that glamourise plastic surgery and getting rich and having all of these lavish thing which isn’t bad neccesarilly but it’s just influencing so many people and it’s not in such a positive light. Women, especially black and brown women, are protrayed as argumentative and problematic. Hell, I had to stop watching Housewives because of it. I got sick of it.
They just don’t make shows like they used to…
How about you? Have you been inspired to go to school by your community or pop culture? If you either attended or graduated from college, what was the factor behind your choice to go to college?