Living the HBCU Legacy, HBCUConnect Scholarship
Eunique M. Hansel
The creation of historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) came out of the need for centers of excellence to educate African American’s who were not allowed to attend institutions of higher learning based solely on the color of their skin. African American’s have had a history of making a way when there is no way and the development of the HBCU is no different.
HBCU’s have contributed greatly to American history by producing some of the greatest thinkers of our times. The sons and daughters of these great universities include Thurgood Marshall, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Barbara Jordan and a host of others in a number of fields. Not only have HBCU’s trained great minds, but have allowed great minds to do the training with HBCU’s employing such professors as Alain Locke, Kelly Miller and Ossie Davis.
Following in the tradition of making a way when there is none HBCU’s have been pivotal in the development and progress of the Black Greek Letter Organization’s known as the Divine Nine. Though the first Greek organization, Alphi Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. was founded on the campus of Cornell University in 1906, it was on the campus of an HBCU, Howard University that five of those divine nine were founded. Howard University lives as the cradle to the oldest Black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., the largest Black sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., as well as Omega Ps Phi Fraternity Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. These organizations have committed themselves to service and have over the last 100 years made strides and lasting impact on the Black community and America at-large.
Ben Okri wrote, “In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river, it was always hungry.” Okri’s words speak to the experience of the Black Diaspora and the foundation of the HBCU. These school’s began as rivers and like roads spread throughout America. They continue their relevance today because we remain hungry. Our hunger is derivative of the neglect we receive in learning about ourselves in the classrooms of public schools and halls of predominately white institutions.
Historically Black colleges and universities teach with greater attention to the principle of Sankofa, which is an Akan word meaning to “reach back and take.” In other words these schools work as Mecca’s of giving in aspects of education, love, and friendship while instilling morals and principles that one cannot learn anywhere else. These schools not only educate but cultivate by helping their sons and daughters to grow not only in education but in physical, mental and spiritual aspects as well. Without these schools the leaders of today and tomorrow lose valuable training. From these institutions we learn the true value of being selfless because we think, act, and learn not only for ourselves but for those around us.