My parents were born in the 1940s in the south when schools were segregated. It was very important for my parents and lots of black people at the time to obtain an education for economic survival. The period of Reconstruction in the United States gave birth to The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, also known as the Freedmen’s Bureau. It was established in the War Department, by an act of Congress on March 3, 1865. While a major part of the Bureau’s early activities included the supervision of abandoned and confiscated property, its mission was to provide relief and help formerly enslaved people become self-sufficient. This gave birth to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). This was very important to black people who spent generations as slaves and was the core of a productive and economic lively hood for the black community moving forward. My family understood the importance of education and education is a tradition in our family that is passed down to each generation. On my mother’s side, my great grandmother received her degree from Barber Scotia College, in Concord, NC. My grandfather went to North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC where he met my grandmother who went to Bennett College in Greensboro, NC. My mother went to Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. My father and all his brothers and sister went to Jackson State University in Jackson, MS. HBCUs are a proud legacy in my family and taught me the values of education, social identity and achievement despite an environment not designed for me in its origin.
My father was in the band (as was I) and for HBCUs the band is a huge ambassador for the school. Football games, homecoming celebrations and alumni associations performing community services in cities across the country was a great experience because I saw people that looked like me being successful, and economically comfortable. Seeing the band made me want to attend and join the band at a HBCU because of all the excitement and stories I had growing up attending games and sharing those experiences with my family. My parents were both teachers, so my experiences, values and learning based in the legacy of HBCUs taught me that I could invest in our schools, businesses, and neighborhoods for the advancement of my community, that was established only 157 years ago. I saw more black people in different fields of academia, rather than the usual depiction of entertainment and athletics which taught me I have more viable options in becoming a productive citizen. If something is unfair, I learned to think proactively to avoid the landmines in front of me. If I don’t get an opportunity or didn’t get the same opportunity as someone else for whatever reason, I learned to take the opportunity I have and be the best person in that position to build my experience for the next opportunity that may present itself. My background has shown me that I can be successful even if things aren’t the way I want them to be.
I think that the things I have gone through affect my expectations of my students because I want them to apply themselves. Their lives may not be easy, they may not have positive influences around them or someone they can follow to believe they can be successful. They could be at the other end of the spectrum and have all the tools necessary for success. No matter their situation, I expect them to try the best they can and persevere through the fell clutch of circumstance. I believe this affects them in a positive way, because they see me as someone who is an expert in the discipline and a good teacher that gives them confidence to achieve. I also believe that my decorum and methodology affect my students by tearing down certain biases and opens their minds to something that was closed to them before.