On 'The Quad' And The Legacy Of HBCUs
BET’s The QUAD is trying to make Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) great again, and Atlanta is at the center of the movement. From A Different World to Drumline, this city has played a leading role in spreading the good news about the institutions that have nurtured so many great minds.
Alice Walker, Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Keshia Knight Pulliam and Wanda Sykes are just a few of the big names who took advantage of the four great Atlanta HBCU campuses.
While shows like A Different World romanticized the HBCU experience, I was not sold on going a “black school.” Don’t get me wrong, Whitley Gilbert and Dwayne Wayne will forever be relationship goals, but I wasn’t sold on learning in an environment where everyone looked just like me.
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In my classes and on my various sports teams , I was almost always the only Black girl and I was OK with that because I never had to compete. I automatically stood out. I jokingly tell my friends that I grew up white. Many of my family members would agree. I’m from a town called Sebring, Fla. where the average population is 10,000 with 16 percent of the residents being black.
When it came time to apply to college, my aunt and uncle said I needed the "black experience.” I didn’t know what that was at the time, but I knew I didn’t want to be surrounded by a bunch of Black people. Call me naive, but I only knew two types of Black people: me and them. I was once jumped during a field trip because the girls said I talked “too White.” It was moments like that one that turned me off from my own people.
Along came Atlanta.
Before I submitted my first application, I traveled to Atlanta to tour four great institutions: Clark Atlanta, Morris Brown, Morehouse and Spelman College. I was enamored. At Spelman, I purchased every sky blue and white item I could afford. I couldn’t wait to be this type of “black.” These people sounded like me and looked like me. I just wanted to be successful just like them. My best friend and I both agreed that we would return together, only she was one year ahead of me and ended up attending alone.
Journalism was my life, and I didn’t even know it. I always loved crafting stories. Unfortunately, Spelman didn’t have a journalism program. So, I moved on. I ended up at Florida A&M University (FAMU) in the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication (SJGC). It was the same school that my uncle and my cousins attended. I was now a part of a family tradition.
While HBCUs have always been great in my eyes, The Quad appeals to different generation.
A Different World and the Cosby Show gave us Hillman College. School Daze gave us Mission College. And The Quad is introducing us to Georgia A&M University (GAMU).
Let me just say that the marketing for the show is too good. It’s so good that we received a viewer email this week asking us to investigate (GAMU). At first, I thought it was a joke. Then, I read the email again. The more I read, the more smoke billowed from my ear canals.
Why can’t people just ask Google? This is not what I should be using my degree to investigate.
The viewer said she saw a recruitment commercial claiming the school opened in 1919. I went to their website and found the same information. Don’t be fooled. On every platform, GAMU states the institution is fictional, but I’m glad it’s getting your attention.
“From School Daze ‘till now, this is kind of full circle,” said Jasmine Guy in a behind-the-scenes video. The former FAME dancer made us hate in her Spike Lee’s 1988 film, but then she stole our hearts in 1987 with her southern charm in A Different World.
Yes, Jasmine. This is definitely a full circle moment.
While many still question whether or not the HBCU is still relevant, BET is giving us a platform.
The QUAD was created and nurtured by HBCU graduates. It also stars Anika Noni Rose, a graduate of FAMU, the college of love and charity. If it were not for my HBCU experience, I would not be here today. I am a proud alumna and current member of the board of visitors at the SJGC. I continue to give to FAMU because she has never stopped giving to me. To this day, I can call up a former professor and get a plate. We still text. We still call. We’re still family.
The beauty of HBCU echoes louder than the roaring sound of our marching bands. We are stronger than our football teams, and greater than their losses. Our greatest accomplishment is excellence with caring. In every classroom, you will find a lesson with an extra ounce of love.
HBCUs are something magical, and I hope that this new work of art captures the beauty that is the Black experience.