“Being black is hard to do!” This quote from the poet Theresa Tha Songbird’s poem “You So Black” touches on the pain that comes with darker pigmentation. All it takes is one scroll through your timeline or another dead black boy to know that growing up black comes with consequences. If you are like us, you can remember the time when you realized you were different. When you felt the stares of judgment from those who did not quite look, talk or dress like you. The unsureness of your presence or the disdain for your existence. It is enough to make you question why the sun touched your skin.
When you grow up in a society that was not designed with your kind in mind, it makes you feel unaccepted. Two brown boys from the South knew that feeling all too well. When Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton linked up in the city of Atlanta, they knew something was different about them. Instead of assimilating, they embraced their uniqueness. They called themselves Outkast: "an adjective meaning homeless or unaccepted in society; someone who is not to be considered a part of the normal world." If you are an Outkast fan, then you know this definition comes from the prelude of their first album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Try saying that fives times fast.
Where is the safe space for America’s Outkast? A place for protection, acceptance, culture and growth.
Picture our favorite southern belle, Whitley Gilbert, speaking to her classmate Dwayne about how she chose to attend the illustrious Hillman College. With her accent drenched in sweat tea and covered with buttermilk biscuits, Whitley describes the conversation she had with her great-grandfather, a graduate of Hillman College. He assured her that “You can go to school anyplace but no school with love you and teach you to love yourself and KNOW yourself like Hillman.” Replace Hillman with the name of your HBCU and let those words sink in.
HBCU grads know that our institutions are special places. Ben Ivey, a 2008 graduate from Morehouse, stated “It [Morehouse] was the first place I'd ever seen a large contingency of black men (and women at Spelman) striving to be the best in every field. I was used to people embarking on life and being happy with a job or limited success. At Morehouse, simply having a job wasn't good enough. You had to be the CEO of the company, or at least striving to be that.”
HBCU’s serve as a safe space for black students where we can learn to embrace our societal abnormalities while cultivating black excellence. While Andre and Antwan learned to embrace their southern flow, pimped out ways and Cadillac doors, they created a path for southern rappers to take center stage. They echoed the words “aint NOBODY as dope as me” through your speakers and never apologized for their greatness.
Our brother Ben reminds us of the words of Benjamin Elijah Mays, "Whatever you do, do it so well that no man living, dead, or yet to be born can do it any better." Never take your melaninated training ground of excellence for granted because you have everything you need within your cocoa butter skin. This next design is dedicated to all the dope HBCU grads.