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HeadshotAlbert Einstein once brilliantly stated, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Our society does this constantly as we slowly strip our education system of its humanity by manufacturing employees instead of cultivating talent.  We treat students as identification numbers with scores and letters attached instead of actual human beings with unique circumstances, experiences, talents and interests, then wonder why our country is falling behind in education.

We don’t allow people to develop who they are.  And that is why historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are relevant. They teach a historically, systematically oppressed segment of the population that who they are and what they have to contribute do matter.  HBCUs show many students, for the first time, that they can become who they dream of becoming. Numbers may not be able to measure this, but I know the testimonials can.

One main argument I have heard against HBCUs is that the world is not Black.  Trust me, I know.  We all know. The teacher who showed my class a slideshow of lynchings was not Black. The people he showed celebrating at the lynch parties weren’t Black either.  They looked like the rest of the kids in that AP US History class.  We were all in the same classroom but learning from completely different perspectives with mine as the odd one out. This is not the type of environment that fosters a positive self-image; in fact it does the opposite.

Education is about helping each and every last person, regardless of age, race, economic status or creed, reach a level of self-actualization. This cannot happen without the acknowledgment of each person’s unique experiences and circumstances.

For some, the best place for that to happen is at a Historically Black College or University, for others it may not be.  I just know that they say you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with and I spent a lot of time with a lot of brilliant people who made me extremely proud and confident.  I love my HBCU.  Howard University was the best decision I almost didn’t make and I thank the universe that made it for me. It acted as the cocoon of my evolution and for that I am forever grateful.

Congrats to all the grads!

See you. Be you. Do more. ©

John Harris III
Guest Contributor

About John Harris III

Harris graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Suma Cum Laude from Howard University in May of 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. He hails from a suburb south of Chicago and is the founder of a web-based organization named Authentic Reflection that promotes identity development through creative expression.