I always told people, “It was my mother, my sister, and 'A Different World' who helped me on my path to college." My mother was a single mother and a student at Medgar Evers College getting her nursing degree. I was a toddler at the time, coming with her to school. My sister, Nneka, went through obstacles in her life, but that never stopped her and she graduated college. "A Different World" was a TV show that let me know that people of color can get a higher education and make something of themselves. We don’t have to be stereotypes, we can be better and do better in our lives.
"A Different World" ran from 1987 to 1993 on NBC. Around that time, I was a baby and really wasn’t watching the show, but I knew my sisters did. When they started showing repeats of the show on various channels, I was older, and that’s when I started watching. "A Different World" was focused on Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet) going off to her parent’s Alma Mater, Hillman College, a fictional college in Virginia. What I love about this show was that Denise wasn’t an honor student. She wasn’t an A+ student, she was just a trying to get by and finish college. Even though her grades weren’t the best, she made do. Denise did what she had to do to get by, even when she had to call her parents to get out of a jam. She realized that there are things that you have to do for yourself, without your parents' help, and she did just that.
In the second season, Lisa Bonet left "A Different World," because she was pregnant with her daughter, Zoe. The concept of Lisa’s character on the show was “The girl next door." It wasn’t a good look that she was 20 and with child on the show. The show then focused was on Dwayne Wayne (Kadeem Hardison) and Whitley Gilbert (Jasmine Guy), two people who hated each other in the beginning, but ended up together at the end.
"A Different World" also tackled with a lot of issues at that time, like teen pregnancy, the apartheid in South Africa, HIV/AIDS, racism, and sexual harassment, just to name a few, and they showed you the view of being in a HBCU (Historically Black College Universities) and academic and social views of college life, like Greek Life. I knew, when I got older, that I wanted to go to college, because I didn’t want to be yet another statistic about the Black community and I didn't want kids yet. I wanted the higher education, I wanted the degree, and I wanted to graduate with honors, because that showed me that we, as African Americans, we have the mindset, we have the power of making it in the world and doing something with what we learned in college.
Now that I’m much older and graduating college, I can say that "A Different World" showed me a view of being in an all-black college and knowing that you don’t have to be a number, you don’t have to be on the streets, hustling, or be a statistic with three or four kids (that’s how some people view African Americans, that we are lazy and we don’t do anything). That’s not the case here. More African American men and women are going to college and even going on to get their Masters. "A Different World" was a stepping stone for me; it showed me I can do anything, not only as a woman, but as an African American woman. I just have to set my mind to my goals and reach them.
I wish there were more shows like "A Different World" to show that getting an education is a beautiful thing, but also it's also a privilege that we should be honored to have. To this day, I still watch the show on Netflix, because my mom, my sister, and "A Different World" pushed me to make the choice to further my education and reach my dreams, no matter what.