On Thursday, March 21st the Georgetown University National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter hosted an unprecedented event to engage in a multilayered discussion about Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The conversation brought nearly 100 students from both Georgetown and Howard University’s campuses together. President of Georgetown’s NAACP, Deborah Williams, said, “We’ve never had the opportunity to come together as one unit. The purpose of this discussion is to unify us.”
The discussion featured a panel that consisted of Georgetown students, Jon Matt-Hopkins and Khadijah Davis, and Howard students, Stanford Fraser and Krystal Leaphart. Panelists discussed controversial sentiments that permeate our respective DC campuses. They discussed personal reasons for electing to attend their respective schools, disclosed and debunked perceptions of both schools, and highlighted advantages and disadvantages of attending and HBCUs or PWIs.
The atmosphere was collegial and respectful with the occasional mumble or chuckle when someone disagreed. However, when asked, “Do you think black students at PWIs have ‘sold out’ or do you think students at HBCUs ‘sell themselves short’?” nearly the entire crowd went silent. It became evident that these questions perfectly captured common misperceptions about “the other.” The attentiveness of the audience and nodding heads during the responses suggested that many students have heard generalizations like this before.
Panelists suggested that one school is not superior to the other, they are just different and both schools prepare students for life beyond college. Many Howard students spoke about the lack of resources and administration as the biggest challenge of attending an HBCU. However, Howard students also described how these obstacles instilled in them a “hustle” mentality that has prepared them for all the hurdles that society will present. Similarly, Jon-Matt Hopkins disclosed, “Being a minority at a PWI, you carry a weight. It’s as if every room you walk into, you’re speaking on behalf of black people.” While one might perceive this as unfair burden on black students Hopkins continued to explain, “…but there is a lot of growth in that process, because that’s how the world is.”
By the end of the event, the audience and panelists were engaged in an open discussion about how to bring Georgetown and Howard closer. People proposed partnership through service, but also recognized that as black students attending college in Washington, DC we already are inherently a community. Whether a student chose to represent their Hoya gray and blue at a PWI or Bison blue and red at an HBCU, Krystal Leaphart said it best, “We need soldiers everywhere.”
-Danielle Bembry, News Editor
Image Source: NAACP (Candace M.)