As this weekend approached, I began to reflect on my days spent at Howard U. I proudly rep my alumni status on my license plate frame already, but there’s a lot more to it than that. I remember enrolling at the university in the Summer of 1993. My previous college experience had been at Prince Georges Community College in Largo, MD where I obtained the necessary credits to transfer to Howard University. I honestly never had dreams of going to college when in high school as a lot of folks did back then. My SAT scores weren’t exactly good either, okay they were terrible!!! Through some forces of nature (a recruiter at KFC), I ended up taking the ASVAB test and achieved miraculous numbers on that test. Shortly thereafter I enlisted in the US Navy. The time spent in the military was a series of life events that I’d assume wipe like an eraser to a chalkboard. However, after a shoulder injury and an honorable discharge brought me back home sooner than expected, I found myself contemplating my options.
In January of 1993, the Veteran’s Administration gave me the surprise of my life. Being that I was a service connected veteran, they awarded me the opportunity for Vocational Rehabilitation. This basically meant that they were going to provide the full tuition for me to attend college. My choice without question was Howard University. I had spent many a day at Howard during the years that Ma had worked there at the Allied Health building when I was a kid. I almost felt like I was going back home in a sense.
That day came in 1993 when I stepped into that first class. It was an African-American Studies class with Professor Nikongo Ba-Nikongo. Maaaaaaaaaan… that class was not easy for me at all. I wasn’t really in the habit of studying that much and my classes at PG were at night. I was still working that summer as an inside sales rep for an electrical supply company. They allowed me to attend classes in the morning and come to work mid morning. I had to really apply myself in this class. It was far from simple, but I passed. Over the next 7 years I experienced moments that will be with me for a lifetime. Yeah, I said 7 years. There was never a semester that I wasn’t working full or part time in some capacity, interning somewhere or a combination of both. I was busy from the day I set foot in on the grounds at Howard U, ‘til the day I graduated.
I learned a hell of a lot in the School of C (Communications for my non-Howard folks) while Majoring in Radio-TV-Film. I will forever remember the guided instruction of Dr. Judi Moore Latta in my Scriptwriting class, the hands on lessons in the studio from Ted Roberts (aka The Crazy African) and Candy Shannon in Radio Production and Advanced Radio Production classes. I still remember how astonished I was when walking into my History of Broadcasting and Film class to see a white dude was teaching the class. Yet, Professor William Barlow was one of the coolest white cats I had ever had the pleasure of taking a class with and he knew his stuff. Rumor had it that he was married to a Black woman… lol.
Getting over to my Minor which was Sociology, there was really only one instructor who stood out to me. That man was Dr. Ernest Quimby. Dr. Quimby was not just a professor, but a good friend. As much as I enjoyed all those Criminal Justice classes throughout the years (especially the Mock Trial classes), the one thing that sticks with me more than anything is that I could talk to Dr. Quimby about anything. No matter what our discussions were about I always felt encouraged walking out of his office or classroom. When dealing with some real life (divorce, health) issues that almost drove me into depression, it was that good brother who kept me optimistic. With his help I remained focused on my studies and didn’t’ allow circumstances to keep me down. Dr. Quimby without question was the most influential person in my years spent at Howard.
I didn’t really spend a lot of time partying or going to events because I didn’t have the time. I wasn’t as young as most of the kids enrolled at Howard. In fact, a lot of them called me ‘Uncle’. I wasn’t that much older, but I for the most part I always came to class before or after work and was in business attire. Walking around campus with a suit and tie and trying not to sweat was not an easy task. There were days when I had classes at the top of the hill and the next at the bottom of the hill and then back at the top. The internships that I worked while in school were worthwhile as well. My most memorable experience was working on the Partners of the Heart project. The project focused on the life of Vivien Thomas, an African-American surgical technician who helped develop procedures used to treat Blue baby syndrome in the 1940s. He rose above racism and poverty to become a pioneer of cardiac surgery.
At the time when I was at Howard well known Hollywood director/actor Bill Duke was the Chairman of Radio-TV-Film at the School of C. Bill Duke was the Director for this venture. His being there opened up opportunities for student to become involved in numerous projects; however this one was the grand prize. If I recall there were hundreds of students who interviewed for this one and only a handful selected. I remember throwing on my sharpest suit and shining up my briefcase (with leather cleaner) the morning of the interview. I walked in the room and knocked em out. It was like I had ice water in my veins. For the next year or so I was involved in various aspects from production meetings to doing research at the National Library of Medicine to logging recorded footage. Although the date (February 10, 2003) that Partners of the Heart aired on PBS, I had EVERYBODY watching. I felt a sense of pride in watching it although I didn’t have a major part. But as the credits rolled at the completion I saw my name. I even hit REWIND and PAUSE and sat there glowing for a while. I still have all my materials from that project. All the scripts and notes from production meetings. Since that time, an actual film on the life of Dr. Vivien Thomas has been made from the documentary entitled Something the Lord Made featuring actor/rapper Mos Def.
I really could sit here and write for days about previous homecomings and stuff like that, but I wasn’t really in the young frame of mind like a lot of the folks back then and can’t say honestly that I lived the college life. I attended games, step shows and other events here and there, but nothing that really stands out. I saw Sinbad do a stand-up comedy show, a young Maxwell open up for Groove Theory and numerous fashion shows and plays over my years there. When the premiere of the movie The Best Man was shown back in ’99, I took my then 15 yr old sister up to campus with me to check out the movie. I’ll never forget what she said as we stood there in front of Cramton Auditorium. “Look at all the Black people” she exclaimed. I had to remember that she probably had never been anywhere close to Howard and that seeing 1000 Black faces were like a huge family reunion for her. I assisted with the sound crew back for Yardfest in 2001, but that was well after my graduation.
The culmination of my 7 years of hard work was the day I received my Bachelor’s degree. There are no words to describe my joy that day. Seeing the smile upon Ma’s face was enough for me. Dad had travelled from Charlotte that day as well to be there to share in the occasion. When I say he had just got off the plane, I’m not joking. That man caught a cab straight to campus and lugged his suitcase in hand for the entire morning of the ceremony. It was kinda funny if I may say so myself. So looking back at Howard with wonderful memories bring a big smile to my face. At 34 yrs old I don’t see myself hanging out on Georgia Avenue as I did in years past or going to any of the parties featuring celebrities. I’ll just sit back and enjoy this weekend with reflections of goals achieved and blissful times. Happy Homecoming Howard University!!!!!
Any other Howard University folks out there… or those who have wonderful memories from their college days?