This past weekend, I had the honor of being chosen to be a Thurgood Marshall College Fund Scholar at it’s 16th annual Leadership Institute held in Washington D.C. I have always heard of the Institute being a life changing experience, but to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t sure where I would fit in at the Institute, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t level up. The institute is all about preparing you to be a professional in today’s market. As a Mass Communication student, I didn’t know if the opportunities would be in abundance for me. At the career fair, I was able to talk to many different companies about the possibilities that were available, and there were more than I ever imagined. I learned about the mobility within companies that is possible, and I got to sit face to face with top professionals and see what company values aligned with mine. Also, through workshops, I learned about financial literacy, branding, interviewing, and story telling when dealing with any type of corporation I truly came a student, and left a professional.
More than that though, the beauty of my time at the Institute was being surrounded by so many HBCU students and even more black excellence. For one weekend, all school rivalries, all preconceived notions, and all biases were put away. All that was left was simply the pride and beauty of being an HBCU student. I was able to meet so many amazing people, and I learned so much about myself in the process. I even had the chance to really get to know fellow students at my university that I had never really interacted with before. This Institute made me sit and evaluate the question “Why do you love your HBCU?”
Coming from a school in the middle of the Mississippi Delta, I’m often asked that question in a more negative way. “Why would you go to Mississippi?” “What’s at Valley?” There’s always a condescending tone in the question. Yet, having the chance to travel to D.C. and see all the students who are trying to make it, I can answer that question better than ever. I love my HBCU because Mississippi Valley State University’s campus was built on a cotton field. Everyday I’m surrounded by neighboring cotton fields, and it’s so easy to be annoyed by the seemingly “nothingness” around. However, cotton fields represent something bigger to the average black person in America. It represents the enslavement of our people and the pain of our history. Now, over 100 years later, a university stands in the middle of one of these cotton fields. My University is the rose that grew from the cotton field. In the same place that our ancestors were told they were never going to amount to anything and denied the right to an education, I’m being educated. We came here as slaves, but we’re leaving as scholars.
I’m so thankful for the experience of the TMCF Leadership Institute. I learned tools necessary for pursuing my career and my education. However, I’m more thankful for the pure and utter passion that the organization has for HBCUs, and for them calling me to look inside of myself and remember the beauty of my university and the wonder of our history. To say The Leadership Institute was life changing would not do it justice.