HBCU’s are alive and well in Rochester

HBCU’s are alive and well in Rochester

From behind DJ Shogun’s table

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

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).


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

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!


Student doing chin ups at the ROTC booth

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.


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.


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.


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.


About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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