Commencement Ceremonies at HBCUs

Commencement ceremonies at colleges and universities across America venerate the accomplishments of students who have committed themselves to satisfactorily completing their academic programs of study. For graduates, their family, friends, and those who played some part in their educational experience, this is truly a proud day, a day that will always be remembered as special. As I recently attended Commencement ceremonies for various individuals at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, my position about Commencement ceremonies at predominantly White colleges and universities just not being the same as Commencement ceremonies at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) was reaffirmed. University of Wisconsin-Madison has over 43,000 students, with African-American students composing less than 2% of the student population. (African-American students are still the largest student minority group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.) University of Wisconsin-Madison, like other predominantly White colleges and universities, has a small population of Black graduates who participate in Commencement exercises. While this small Black population of graduates, their Black friends, and Black families bring some elements of an “authentic blackness” to the Commencement ceremonies of predominantly White college and universities, one can only witness a comprehensive “authentic blackness” during Commencement ceremonies at HBCUs.

Just in case some of you ultra-professional and bourgeois people begin to develop the wrong impression about this article, you need to know that Commencement ceremonies at HBCUs are professional and they are respectful. You can be professional and respectful and show your great happiness and excitement for the graduates, especially for graduates you have come to see. Most graduates are not going to be offended if the members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. have one of their sorority sisters graduating and they yell out, “Skee-wee.” Members of Black Greek-lettered organizations are going to vociferously express their excitement and happiness for members of their organizations who are graduating. Black fraternity and sorority members make a tremendous contribution to the experience of being at an HBCU Commencement ceremony. Additionally, they help to remind us that we are not attending a funeral and that this is a joyous occasion that we should be evincing some outward expressions of our elation for the graduates.

The family members, friends, and associates of the graduates also provide noteworthy entertainment at an HBCU Commencement ceremony. At every HBCU Commencement ceremony, family members, friends, and associates are going to go wild in their support for the people they have graduating. Throughout the graduation, even in traditionally quiet moments and/or before the ceremony can really get started well, people are going to cheer for the graduates, blurt out their “Alright now, I see you Rashaun,” “I see you Nupe,” “You better walk soror,” and they engage in other acts they have planned to do before they came to the ceremony or that they spontaneously organized.

Many HBCU graduates are not simply going to just walk across the stage and not give us a performance that demonstrates their great pride and excitement for this awesome moment and that exhibits the merriment this moment that honors their academic excellence and accomplishments triggers them to do. Many graduates also coordinate things they are going to do before and when they get on stage to receive their degrees. It’s the things that the graduates do that make HBCU Commencement ceremonies far different from what you witness at a predominantly White college or university’s Commencement ceremony.

If you ever question whether or not Black people are committed to academic excellence and have zeal for academic accomplishments, you should attend an HBCU Commencement ceremony. You will get to see Black people from all backgrounds enthusiastic about the academic accomplishments of their fellow Black people.  If you have never attended an HBCU Commencement ceremony, you should attend one near your area. You will have an opportunity to witness the “call and response” tradition that is highly characteristic of Black culture. Don’t, therefore, try to marginalize Black Commencement ceremonies by what you experience at them without a proper understanding of Black culture.

One thing is for sure, you will have an outstanding experience at an HBCU Commencement ceremony. You won’t be bored.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Using Social Media to Defeat Enemies of HBCUs

It’s time out for people who graduated from, attend, work for, and/or support historically Black college and universities (HBCUs) to continue to stay on defense about the significant value of HBCUs. We need to get on offense. Yes, defense is important because it is the side of the ball where a team prevents the other team from scoring points, but you cannot win without scoring points. Of course, great defensive efforts can lead to the scoring of points but those defensive efforts must be converted into offense. This is how it goes in basketball and football and this is how it goes when it comes to winning the war being waged against our beloved HBCUs.

We’ve been on defense far too long and we’ve not converted our defense into offense, meaning we are not scoring any points against our opponents, those who try to dismantle, devalue, and/or undermine HBCUs. We already know that most of the enemies of HBCUs are White. These are not just any White people either—these are racist, elitist, classist, and/or prejudiced White people. Therefore, just don’t look at any White person and assume that he or she is an enemy of HBCUs. You have to evaluate words and actions of people to resolve whether or not they are enemies of HBCUs. Don’t just think that the enemies of HBCUs are all White—many Blacks are some of the greatest enemies of HBCUs.

You may be thinking that the only Black enemies of HBCUs have to be those “nefarious Black conservatives.” Unfortunately, many of the nefarious Black enemies of HBCUs are those who attend or have attended one of these institutions or work for or have worked for one of these institutions. Now, these previously mentioned Black enemies of HBCUs represent a tremendously small percentage of the enemies of HBCUs, but their power can be just as damaging as White enemies of HBCUs—possibly even more injurious.

Instead of letting misinformation, unmerited negative criticism, blatant lies, unfair characterizations, belittling viewpoints, and etc. continue to have a significant impact, Black people and non-Blacks who support HBCUs need to use the power of social media to saturate the internet with true information and responses to misinformation about HBCUs and offer positive messages about HBCUs. If you only know information about the specific HBCUs you attend/or graduated from, then just talk about your specific HBCU through social media. Use your Facebook status and the “Note” function to periodically say something positive about HBCUs. Use Twitter to occasionally say something positive about HBCUs. Make YouTube videos that present HBCUs in a positive light. Bloggers should pen pieces that communicate positive academic, social, and professional student experiences at HBCUs. For those who don’t blog, get a free blog at WordPress (http://wordpress.com) or Blogger (http://blogger.com) and compose positive pieces about HBCUs—they don’t have to be long pieces either.

Again, the goal is to saturate the internet with positive information and messages about HBCUs. Now, I see many Black people engaging in all kinds of foolishness through social media. Take a little time to devote to supporting HBCUs through social media. We must focus on making it clear that HBCUs offer great academic value and experiences. The internet needs to be filled with great success stories of those who have graduate from HBCUs.

Although I’m not attempting to present the ideas in this article as panaceas to the problems HBCUs confront, the ideas in this piece are practical ways to help us advance, defend, ameliorate, and support HBCUs. Black people have the power to use social media to form a potent collective to market HBCUs in the way they deserve to be marketed.

Please take at least a small amount of the time you spend using social media to devote to uplifting, improving, advancing, and supporting HBCUs. We are strongest when we are united!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Significant Value of Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are just as valuable as predominantly White institutions (PWIs). In fact, many HBCUs are better than PWIs. Don’t let people tell you that you should attend PWIs because HBCUs do not have any real value. Many successful Black people graduated from HBCUs. When you look at many well-known Black people’s academic backgrounds, you will find that they may have graduated with their master’s or doctoral degrees from Harvard, Yale, or Princeton, but their undergraduate degrees come from HBCUs like Albany State University, Howard University, Fisk University, or Hampton University. If you really want to be challenged and really want to receive an education instead of a miseducation, an HBCU is the place where you want to be.

If you are Black, an HBCU gives you access to a professional network to help you to advance academically, socially, and professionally. I have read too many blog posts and opinion pieces published in various venues that argue that HBCUs don’t prepare students for the real world because they don’t show students what the real world looks like. They have argued that having Blacks students situated predominantly with other Black students does not equip them to be able to work with and understand the predominantly White America we reside in. This, however, could not be further from the truth. Nobody knows better how to work with and understand White people better than Black people. Trust me! We, Blacks, have been working with White people even before this country was founded, so we kinda got this thing figured out by now. Ya dig what I’m saying?

A strong effort has been engaged in by many conservatives, Whites, and republicans to defund and dismantle HBCUs. Other than racist motivations, I cannot understand why these people would try to eliminate and damage HBCUs in this way. I wonder does it have to do with trying to prevent a significant percentage of Black people from gaining training in higher education. Don’t try to say that I’m simply playing the race card either. Why else would people try to eliminate and defund HBCUs then?

HBCUs have proven to be excellent training grounds for preparing students to find and excel in jobs, careers, and graduate and professional schools. When you attend an HBCU, you will be taught by professors who are not all Black—there is diversity in the faculty.  The staff is not all Black—HBCUs have diverse staffs. The students are not all Black either—just predominantly Black.

If you are a high school student looking to find a higher education institution that will prepare you for the future, I encourage you to consider one of the many fine HBCUs situated across America. I highly recommend that you look at attending Albany State University, Howard University, Hampton University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Fisk University. I could list many other HBCUs, but begin with those schools first, especially Albany State University. You will have a campus experience that cannot be duplicated by a PWI—this is simply a fact!

I would also like to encourage all alumni of HBCUs to enthusiastically support your HBCU of choice economically, socially, academically, and professionally. It is really not a good look when many Black graduates of HBCUs try to hide the fact that they went to HBCUs with their current or past attendance of prestigious PWIs. For me, this equals racial self-loathing and self-hatred. Stop this today!

I encourage everyone to give to your nearest HBCU today!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Standing Up for Albany State University

Albany State University, the pride of Southwest Georgia, currently needs the support of all current students, alumni, friends of the institution, and supporters.  Although we are currently facing some vexing economic conditions, it is unacceptable for our institution to have to suffer in the way that proposed budget cuts would cause our institution to suffer.  ASU has faced great challenges in the past, but none of those past challenges have been able to sink the unsinkable ASU.  It is time for us to act to preserve and protect our great university.  Albany State University has given us so much and it is time for us to reinvest in our great university.

Unfortunately, we cannot sit back and wait to reinvest in ASU—we must do it right now!  At this very moment, there are serious budget proposals in the Georgia state legislature that would fundamentally eliminate the Albany State University Graduate School, end all study abroad programs, eliminate three undergraduate programs, and cause numerous people working for our fine institution to become unemployed.  I refuse to let these phenomena become realities.  The harsh reality is, however, that without meaningful action and involvement from you, these terrible phenomena will become realities.

For those of you who are attending the institution right now, you do not have a choice but to act.  Your institution is under attack and you need to respond right now! For those of you who have graduated from the institution, you need to respond right now because your institution is under attack!  For those of you who are supporters and friends of the institution, you need to act today too because there is no better time to demonstrate your support for the institution than now.  If you fit none of the aforementioned categories, and you just support higher education in general and/or minority serving institutions (like Historically Black Colleges and Universities [HBCUs]), then here is a golden opportunity for you to make a significant difference in the lives of so many people who have benefitted tremendously from this prestigious and meaningful institution.

In most of the works written by Abraham Joshua Heschel, a rabbi and man who marched on the front lines with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they contend that it is not cowardice that is the worst phenomenon, but it is indifference to evil that is the worst phenomenon.  When you think about all that Albany State University has done for you and countless others, it would be evil for us to allow the Georgia state legislature to cut our institution’s budget this dramatically.

Here’s what needs to be done immediately: contact your Georgia state House and Senate representatives and your U.S. House and Senators today, and tell them to make sure that Albany State University does not fall prey to any budget cuts, especially any budget cuts that would cut any programs at our fine institution. Let’s act today!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison