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Dear White People

My First Week at an HBCU

By Essence Wiley

Coming from a predominantly white, suburban community played a large role in my decision to further my education at an HBCU. Though I’m currently not getting the full experience of Howard just yet, I have been pleasantly surprised at how the university has maintained somewhat of its HBCU culture online. 

This week, I experienced my first 8am with none other than the renowned, Dr. Carr, for African American studies. Dr. Carr hosted our first meeting in a bright blue, white, and black dashiki and black round frames that I call “Spike Lee glasses.” As he introduced us to the course, I got even more excited. He began by addressing just a few of the issues our community is currently facing: what he refers to as “the plague” but better known as COVID-19, the constant murder of black people at the hands of police, and Hurricane Laura. I found this awareness extremely refreshing compared to the tone-deafness I became accustomed to. Hearing a never ending use of “brother” and “sister” when referring to black people combined with being encouraged to support black-owned bookstores, pretty much made my day. Then I had Digital Media Literacy with Dr. P. I felt Dr. P’s ‘auntie-esque’ energy straightaway. Afrobeats were playing as we joined the meeting. When she turned her camera on, we were greeted with her long, braided locs and a smile. She even RAPPED for us in her introduction. I can’t lie, I was slightly apprehensive about this class. I envisioned a long 3 hours of lecture; however, Dr. P did the opposite. Not only did she give us the most warm welcome, but she engaged us in the most unique ways. Throughout the class, we were required to “live- tweet” for a grade. I feel like I don’t even have to say how exciting I found this concept: not only do I get to “ki-ki” with classmates on Twitter, but I can get an A for it! Dr. P has also found other ways to differentiate her course: she doesn’t give traditional tests, she takes a hands-on approach by assigning podcasts, blogs, and much more to teach us about the world of digital media, and she allows us to “come as we are.” Professor P. ended the class by reminding all of us of our potential: “anybody who treats your mediocrity as brilliance is your enemy. There’s no room for average.” We all recited the statement “I can never be destroyed, only transformed” before logging off for the day. 

As I stated in one of my  #HUMEDIALIT live tweets, experiencing Dr. Carr and Dr. P on the same day was the best introduction I could’ve gotten to my HBCU. I’ve never felt so comfortable and understood in a classroom setting in my life. I finally feel like everyone entrusted with my education values me as a student AND as a person. I feel at home and I haven’t even touched Howard’s campus yet. 

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