I Went To An HBCU and I’m Proud of That Shit!
Written by Danny P Ocean on October 2, 2017
“You love to hear the story again and again….”
You can always tell who went to an HBCU and who went to a predominantly white college/university. Those people who happened to live the life on the yard wear that shit like a poor cat wears his mink in the club with shades on. They will let everyone within 5 city blocks know where they went. And most of them will only say the name and EXPECT for you to know where exactly where it is. Whereas Blacks who went to white colleges you damn near have to drag it out of them where they went.
Why is that?
Because HBCUs are fresh that is why! Simple as that. I went to THE Grambling State University and loved every minute of the experience. Some of my friends went to the old “regular degular” college and I have yet to hear them tell a story that makes their eyes twinkle. However, like clockwork, every 4th Sunday of the month you can find a Black person retelling tales of parties, dorm life, the yard, step shows, from an era long gone. Shhhhh. In fact, if you are quiet enough now you can hear the echoes in the wind of the greatest story ever told.
The funny thing is I almost didn’t go to any college for that matter.
There was a time in my school days when my GPA looked like a blood alcohol level. The furthest thing from my mind was going to college. But then films/tv shows like School Daze and A Different World changed my outlook.
So fast forward to freshman year on campus. I had a teacher named Rev. Bonner for English. Now he was a different type of cat. He was a Black man who wore suits and spoke with an English accent from Downing Edinburgh. Strange shit to a kid like me who came from Milwaukee and never saw a Black man in real life who spoke like a Black Beatle. But never the less here I was sitting in Paul McCartney’s classroom, freshman year, first semester.
Now what made the Rev. special to me was that out of all the folks in the classroom he seemed to take an interest in me. Why? I’m not sure, but one day after class he asked me to stay behind to talk to me for a bit.
Where are you from sir? He asked me.
“Have you ever been academically challenged?” He asked.
Damn!! I thought. Right to the point anshit.
‘Yeah, I guess?” Was my young answer.
“Hmmm.” He responded looking at me with a British glare. “Well, I challenge you to challenge yourself in my class. Don’t go back to Milwaukee with that same cool attitude you have, telling folks you have failed at college.”
Damn!!! I thought. Word? “Alright, … I guess?” Was my young response.
I left the classroom with his words ricocheting around my mind. I’m thinking dude called me the fuck out!!
So fast forward once again to one of our assignments…. read Black Boy by Richard Wright and be prepared to take an oral exam with Rev. Bonner in his office.
WTF!?!?! I thought. I was used to skimming books in high school and maybe if needed getting a few answers from the young ladies in my class. How can I pull this one off though? This nigga about to have me READ this muthafunking book!!!
So guess what… I read the book. And after I finished the book I read that joint again. I was ready for Rev. Bonner and his stupid exam.
I ended up by luck of the draw having my exam on the first day of him giving them. Maybe dude figured my type out. He wanted no cheats this way. I was hoping the exam would get rained out but nope, God had other plans.
I recall walking into his office and dude was sitting behind his desk all scholarly and asked me “Are you ready sir?”
“Yeah, I guess…” was my unsure answer.
I’m not sure how long the exam took, but I swear it felt like a 3-hour tour. The Rev was hitting me with questions after question with a sense of British cool and I was ready for him. I fired back my answers and interpretations of the situation just as cool as he was. And eventually, his poker face cracked a grin. At that moment I felt I had arrived academically.
Coming from where I came it is natural to have some reservations about actually belonging in college. Rev. Bonner challenged me to be the best I could be. He knew that in order for me to achieve I would have to abandon the student I was before. Shedding the weight like a heavy cocoon. Hearing stories from some of my friends who went to white schools, I am not sure many of them received that type of attention. I often hear that at some of those white institutions students are basically no more than a number. However, at THE Grambling State University, Rev. Bonner knew me by name and saw something in me that he saw in I’m sure hundreds of other students. He didn’t want me to become the classic case of a kid who went away to school only to return home at the Christmas break as a failure never to return to a campus again.
When I finished his exam, he looked at me and said “Mr. (Insert Government Name) I am proud of you. Out of all of the years, I have given these oral exams no student has ever performed as well as you have sir!” Now maybe dude was running academic game on me, but that right there meant more to me than any other teacher I had prior to him. I KNEW I belonged in college.
That is reason number 1 on why I am proud to be an HBCU graduate. And for that I thiank him…. I guess.