About 1968, [Ewart Brown, Jr., then student body president] has only one regret. "The only part I wish had not occurred was the vicious infighting between the black students and the administration. I wish we could have called attention to the problems without providing so much entertainment for white folks."
One thing about Howard that I've noticed in my short amount of time here is that instead of carrying on the legacy that was left for us, this school has seemingly become a place solely for the advancement of self. By this, I am referring to the "pop-out culture" and "Howard Hustle" that so many people have subscribed to (I love this era of entrepreneurialism in young Black people, especially while balancing a college workload. I'd also like to point out to people that if you want to do something like that, don't think you have to do one or the other. Don't limit yourself to thinking that if you pursue your entrepreneurial dreams that you'll be broke, or that sticking with college is the only way to be successful. Howard is definitely the place to teach you that both are possible). However, I've realized that going to school here at times seems like a competition of "Who is more popping?" or "Who's hustling the hardest?", which at times is harmful rather than uplifting. I understand now, especially with trying to keep up my blog, that keeping in mind why I'm here in the first place should be my number one priority. Anything outside of that should be for my growth and enjoyment, but most importantly something that could improve the life of someone else.
Before I came here, I definitely held Howard in such high regard and dreamed of the day when I would get to come to "the Mecca." Not to say that I don't still feel that way, but the more I become accustomed to how things really are here, I see past the façade of some sort of Black utopia that was placed before me. Howard has definitely given me a more unclouded perspective of the realities of Black people across the diaspora; specifically the prevalence of class disparities, the ambiguity of Black identity, interactions between Black men and women, and inclusion of the Black LGBTQIA community.
While it is impossible to try and tackle all of these things at once, being at Howard is a great first step to finding a safe space in today's society. However, we at Howard and in the Black community have to be willing to acknowledge that there is always work to be done on our own for our own, to ensure that Howard remains a safe space for marginalized groups. In Howard's case, I've learned that waiting for someone outside of the university, or even Howard's administration for that matter, to act in our best interests for us does nothing but prolong what we hope to accomplish: a better experience at our school. We can look at our history and see that any change that occurred on this campus has been directly driven by students. I've also come to understand that subscribing to the idea that there is only one way to resist is counter-intuitive. Rather, we should be more willing and open to help people understand what their personal goals are for their own life in general and how they can use their unique set of skills and experiences to best effect change in their communities. Finally, we should continue to create spaces for conversation about what we all feel needs to be done and improve how we empathize with one another as a means of educating and building our community.
We do have to continue to be adamant about holding our leaders accountable when it comes to their decisions that affect the student body and mending the disconnection that exists. But we have to be even more adamant about checking our own behaviors that may be unproductive and harmful instead of only expecting anything from leaders who, at the end of the day, have to do what is financially best for the school. We may not like it, but we have to be more understanding and inquisitive about these situations rather than immediately pointing blame. Keep asking questions. Keep applying pressure to our leadership to be transparent with us. If that doesn't work, then we have to create the inclusive spaces and start conversations ourselves. Stop waiting for those members of the administration to show that they have our best interest and want to help us if they consistently have shown that they do and will not. We'll be waiting forever (longer than we have to wait in the A Building as it is, but I digress).
Nevertheless, Howard has indubitably changed my life for the better in the seven months that I've been here. This university has given me more access to amazing experiences and connections to people that I've learned so much from, none of which I would trade for the world. Without Howard, I definitely would not have the ability to realize my dreams or realize that I can effect change in my life and community at my age. BUT this university does have issues that need to be addressed and handled in a productive way. Brushing them under the rug and continuing to treat Howard as the grand-baby that can do no wrong gives students, prospective especially, a false reality that they'll eventually have to wake up from.
To touch on the "recent happenings on campus" I mentioned earlier, the day news of spray-paint and chalk graffiti that criticized President Frederick broke, one of the criticisms was that there would be various tour groups, including an elementary school, on campus that day. This reminded me of one day before a football game (for those of you that don't know, I play piccolo in Howard's marching band), some of us walked by a tour group, and were stopped and asked what it was like to be in the band. After we gave our answers, the tour guide mentioned "Silent Showtime," a strike the band went on last year after not receiving scholarships, and she used it to exemplify one of the many ways Howard students have pushed for a better experience on campus. As we walked away, my band mates talked about how they didn't like how the tour guide brought that up, as it didn't shed light on the great things the band has done (like being the opening act for the National Museum for African American History and Culture's dedication ceremony). The same thing can be said for HU Resist and similar resistance initiatives on campus. Some people, specifically prospective students and their parents, may be put off by the negative attention resistance may bring to the university. If it negatively affects the actual rate of students who apply to Howard, then I'd personally see it as a problem. However, if the only concern here is about image, and this brings me to my overall point, we all need to stop trying to force rose-colored glasses on people who will eventually have to see Howard for what it is. Nothing about this university is perfect, we have to learn to accept certain things as they are and if we can't, we must be bold enough to figure out how to change it. Howard isn't a horrible school and transferring because of that reason in particular isn't a part of the plan. That's easy. I guess you could say it's like marriage. After the honeymoon phase ends, you don't leave after the first disagreement. You stick together and try to work it out.
Happy Charter Day, Howard. Hopefully we can work things out.
In truth and service,
What Happened to the Howard Class of '68
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