HBCU: Historically Black Colleges and Universities
PWI: Predominately White Institution
I know what this already looks like. A post graduate complaining about how difficult its been to land a job in their field of study; pessimistic and regretful about the entire college experience, due to little pay out. I admit, I am slightly resentful of the fact that a corporate career in retail buying was not as accessible to me as I thought it would be after graduating. I suppose I could have networked more, been more consistent with my personal brand, and sent in more internship applications. Somewhere along the way, the motivation and drive to work corporate retail has dissipated. I’ve discovered, and re-discovered that I am an individual, with an entrepreneurial spirit. Honestly, I could have skipped college, stayed home to work, saved money, and jump-started my career as an artist. I did what I thought was right at the time. At age 18, skipping college wasn’t even an option. I was ready to leave home; and my mother was adamant about me going to school.
I didn’t know what it meant or felt like to be celebrated and centered as a black college student.
I enjoyed my time in college. I graduated from the University of North Carolina Greensboro, a predominantly white institution. Though, there was a hefty portion of black students on campus, there was a certain type of college experience that could only be afforded to a black student attending a Historically Black College University. Often, I wish I had gone to an HBCU. The idea of being surrounded by mostly black people did not appeal to me before. Not the way it does now. I value the significance of marching band/ drum line performances at football games, homecoming, black Greek culture, probates, and step shows. I didn’t know what it meant or felt like to be celebrated and centered as a black college student. I was only able to dabble into those activities as a spectator because I had close friends who attended North Carolina A&T State University. I’ve had a few conversations with them; listened to their observations of how black students who attend an HBCU generally differ from black students who attend a PWI.
“PWI’s don’t have certain social norms in place to dictate how one should carry themselves, or interact on campus, so black kids at UNCG are more like, individualistic, rebellious, and carefree.”
“Ya’ll just think and act totally differently than we do.”Charisma & Taylor
I found their observations to be quite interesting. I have the most “alternative” appearance and tastes in music. I’m the only non-hetero, non-Christian. I would definitely agree that I am more rebellious and individualistic than most of my friends. I thought about pledging a sorority, but quickly accepted myself as someone not meant to be boxed or grouped. On the other hand, a few friends that I grew up with also attended UNCG and we totally differ in the way we carry and express ourselves. When we try to group each other into a binary of what it means to be “PWI black” vs. “HBCU black,” we’re forgetting that we as black people have the astounding ability to create layers around ourselves that make us well-rounded people. We can adapt and fit in anywhere. Even with my “carefree” demeanor and favorable “otherness”, I know there would have been a safe space for me at an HBCU. I see myself as a flower grown from concrete. I can thrive anywhere.
With our proximity to whiteness and non-black people, I had access to so many different types of personalities.
It goes without saying that I am not invalidating my friends’ opinions. Much of what they said deserves a closer look and a deeper conversation. Who knows what type of person I would have grown up to be had I not attended UNCG? With our proximity to whiteness and non-black people, I had access to so many different types of personalities. I also shared space with so many other black people, who indirectly taught me how to navigate through and respond to such a “diverse” environment. I discovered who I was. I understood how to convey emotions and what to stand up for. I picked up the language used to describe what happens around us socially, politically, and economically. This experience aligned me with more knowledge about race and gender issues, as well as differences in ethnic groups and religion. Like Taylor said “We just think differently.”
I also had some of the best moments of my life with friends at UNCG, especially as a freshmen. Relationships, friendships, and partnerships formed that I would not have the pleasure of embracing had I chose a different educational route. We all have regrets. In the end, we all know everything happens for a reason. I believe I had the college experience I needed to have in order to be who I am now. I wouldn’t have changed a thing; except maybe my major. *
Where am I after graduating college? Running my own online art gallery! Visit http://www.x-poza.com for prints, posters, canvas work, and more!