HBCU’s are alive and well in Rochester

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From behind DJ Shogun’s table

Historically black colleges and universities are alive and well in Rochester.

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Mayor Warren with Keuka College’s “unofficial” representative. While we are not quite a historically black college, we were there in spirit.

Today at the Riverside Convention Center hundreds of RCSD students and parents at the 2nd Rochester Historically Black Colleges and Universities Fair sponsored by the United Negro College Fund met and had their picture taken with Mayor Lovely Warren (as did I), ate sandwiches (as did I), did pull ups at the ROTC Marine Corps booth (thought about it), and danced (would not be a good move).

Most importantly, they met representatives from, and soaked up information about, dozens of HBCUs, as well as national Fraternities and Sororities. A few won hefty on the spot scholarships.  It was even better than being in school!IMG_1020

Based upon my experience, HBCUs are a good fit for many RCSD students.  In Social Studies and English classes, I see how discussions of African-American history and literature–whether it be Jackie Robinson breaking the color line or The Souls of Black Folk  by W.E.B. DuBois–can spark a keen, often newly found, interest. HBCUs offer such students the chance to explore rich traditions and histories in a rigorous academic setting.  And, as HBCUs become ever more diverse, students can celebrate black identity and  participate in an American vision–slow but advancing–of a healthy post racial society.

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School Without Walls students entering the Riverside Convention Center [Photo: Chris Cardwell]

Probably no one in the ballroom has been to more HBCU Fairs than DJ Shogun, international celebrity mixologist par excellence. Mr. Shogun (not his real name) dj’s–and often participates in panels on the music industry–at HBCUs all over the country: L.A, Atlanta, Tuskegee, Chicago, Dayton, New Orleans, Minnesota and San Francisco. This is his 7th visit to Rochester.  While DJ sees some HBCUs struggling with enrollment, most are effectively “selling the brand” to the new generation. It’s that very vision of the vibrancy of a mostly African-American campus experience without feeling in any way segregated.

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Photo: Chris Cardwell

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DJ Shogun [Photo: Chris Cardwell]

Another man who soaked up the event was Chris “Goodknews” Cardwell, Mayor Warren’s personal photographer. As you will note, his pictures are just a little better than mine.

This was Chris’ first HBCU Fair. He himself went to Hampton University as did DuBois. As Chris’ camera filled up with shots of enthusiastic and energized young people, he felt the HBCU message getting across.  As Chris says, with exposure and information, students quickly see if an HBCU is right for them.

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Painting by Martine Lepore at the Riverside Convention Center, capturing the spirit and energy of the Fair

So plenty of Good News at the Riverside Convention Center on a November-defying sunny afternoon. I still can’t believe some of the kids who I remembered from 7th grade are now old enough for college. Time for more pull ups and fewer sandwiches.