It’s called the Mecca, the holy grail, the REAL H-U. Howard University has forever symbolized the epitome of the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) experience and the coming of age story for so many young men and women. It’s shaped minds, perspectives and allowed individuals to understand who they are and where they came from.
I did not have this experience. Quite the opposite, actually. I attended Syracuse University, a predominantly white institution that’s not located in Chocolate City, D.C., but instead in rural Syracuse, N.Y. After watching an episode of NBC’s “This is Us”, it got me thinking about the experiences I may have missed out on and some of the ways that type of education could have shaped me.
My experience at college I would say was strong. I graduated from one of the top communications programs in the world, I joined a prestigious black fraternity in Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and was able to go abroad three times during my time in school. The limitless amount of exposure to resources was always present as well, but what would Howard have done for me?
Taking a few steps back, I grew up in Oakland, New Jersey, a small town in north Jersey with predominantly white population as well. I had to learn about myself through my family, peers that I saw infrequently at church and folks in pop culture or television. Going to Syracuse was much of the same. I gravitated towards people who looked like me and had similar interests, but I was surrounded by the majority in many respects.
Howard University would have been an entire whirlwind for me. I’ve never been around thousands of black people who look like me for more than a month at a time. I would have met black people from all over the world that would have given me an opportunity to be accustomed to a spectrum of black people like no other. I would better understand my history, have a deeper meaning of self and likely have a better appreciation for everything that means being black. I sometimes think what if. While I never regret anything, sometimes I wish I could have had four college experiences. Why not a PWI, an Ivy, an HBCU and a college basketball player experience all in one?
I’ve seen what the Mecca means to so many. It’s not all positive things, but when is anything. The overall love they have for their classmates and school is like no other.
Without the Mecca I’ve done well for myself so far, but what values would Howard have instilled in my at an earlier stage? How much further would I be? Would I somehow have been stunted in my growth? These are all questions that I will never have the answers to, but I often grapple with it. I know that I am a strong man of God who understands the value of a quality education extends way beyond the classroom. I haven't experienced the mecca located in D.C., but I often feel like there is a mecca inside each and every one of us.
lives by one word: achievement. in anything and everything, achieve.