October came and went fast didn’t it? As soon as the month started, I was preparing for the month to be over. October is significant for a couple of things, Halloween first off and trying to find a costume for myself and my daughter we could agree on. Breast Cancer Awareness, where I find myself every year attempting to participate in volunteering in events and also the hustle of finding something pink that looks good on me to rep for my ladies. The event that I was the most ecstatic about this year was my Homecoming at Virginia Union University.

I haven’t been on Union grounds in years! The vibes I felt on campus mirrored the same feelings when being a student at this beloved institution.  All around me was black girl magic and black boy joy. Smiles, laughter, and screams came from every direction. The music was lit, the Greeks were strolling with perfection, and the southern food was EVERYTHING. As I stood in the middle of the festivities taking it all in, a thought came to my mind about if I never came here. If I didn’t have those professors that taught me not only academics but showed me how to use my voice. How they insisted I learn about my culture far more than what was taught in the public school systems. The friends and the lessons we learned together and how we leaned on each other when we wanted to quit school, I am so appreciative of them.

The lessons I learned the mistakes I made all led to this point in my life. I am so blessed that I had the opportunity to grow and learn there, most importantly I’m blessed that the men and women that had the same chance are the same color as me.

No, I’m not dissing the Ivy League schools or people of a different culture. That is not what this essay is about. This is to celebrate US, the accomplishments that were made and the dreams that have been turned into realities for us. Society has a critical opinion about our black men and women. We all know that, but while walking on those sacred grounds, all I saw was beautiful alumni with their heads held high. That is always something that I will celebrate, and I hope you will too after this post.

I was asked by my friend once (who is an African American woman) “Why didn’t you go to _________ to attend college? What did you learn there that you couldn’t learn at my school” I sat there very quiet for a few seconds trying not to use my emotions to preach to her, or sound militant about HBCU’s versus other universities? I looked at her smiled and said “ I went to Union because seeing young, black, beautiful people every day motivated me to finish” She looked at me puzzled and then her eyes softened as she smiled back at me. She didn’t ask any more questions after that, and we moved on to another topic, yet somehow I knew she understood where I was coming from.

What I gained from attending my HBCU is far beyond what was in books.

Here are a few of the things I learned:

Supportive Atmosphere: At Virginia Union University had people of similar background and circumstances, who have had similar cultural experiences. I felt that we are a community rather than a college.

Diversity: Yes, HBCU’s predominantly have African American students, but that doesn’t mean we’re limited to cultural experiences. People from all over the world have and will attend HBCUs.

Empowerment: HBCUs were explicitly established with the goal of increasing African Americans’ access to a college education, (Higher Education Act of 1965) so students attending these schools can and should feel empowered that they’re actively defending and taking advantage of their rights!

With everything going on in the black community from stories highlighting racial tension and the oppression of black people both inside and out of higher education spaces that have been in the national news. I can honestly say my HBCU has been a haven for me. Thank you to Virginia Union for nurturing me and giving me with the tools to be an educated, beautiful black woman in this world.

Featured Photo Credit: CreateHerStock