Finding Freedom at HBCUs

Perhaps we all know that 25 percent of degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) obtained by Black Americans are from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) or that HBCUs have a long history of educating first-gen students. Or perhaps that the total cost of attendance is 26 percent lower at HBCUs compared to their Predominantly White Institution (PWI) counterparts.

…If you didn’t know, now you know.

But what we rarely mention when discussing HBCUs is how they transform the individual lives of the students who attend them. In my eyes, it all boils down to granting the students and alumni a unique sense of freedom.

In the 60s, HBCU students were famously the architects behind movements fighting for everything from civil rights to education equity.

Today, the fight for civil rights is changing and ongoing. Still, those who have and have had the privilege of attending HBCUs understand that our storied institutions continue to grant us the freedom to be, the freedom to achieve, and the freedom to dream.

Freedom to be

Being surrounded by Black people of every shade and hue allowed me to understand the cultural nuances of Black people across America and the diaspora. This understanding, coupled with feeling seen, continues to give me the freedom to be who I am.

Freedom to achieve

There is an HBCU for every type of Black learner regardless of their personality, goals, and preferred campus climate. This came into focus for me when I started my career in social media strategy during my senior year. Knowing this was my chosen career path, my professors rallied around my goals and developed a personalized learning plan that incorporated social media into an independent learning class. This unique opportunity gave me the freedom to achieve my goals while not choosing between working and learning like many Working Learners have to do.

Freedom to dream

My education at an HBCU granted me the ability to be in better service to the communities I came from and now reside in. My experience gave me and countless others the permission to reimagine what Black identity looks like without fear or apology. This gift is something that continues to inspire Black people, regardless of their educational path, to forge new pathways and dreams not yet imagined.

The promise of HBCUs continues to impact every facet of American culture and identity. Join me in celebrating them throughout Black History Month and all year round.

I am sincerely thankful I am an alumna of Howard University, an HBCU in Washington, D.C.

Maya Cade is the Senior account manager at Verified Strategy, a communications strategy agency based in Washington, D.C. In this role, she helps amplify social issue brands messaging through social media strategy. Prior to joining Verified Strategy, Maya worked with startups to help build their communications strategy. She cares deeply about equity and the future. Maya is an alumna of Howard University, where she studied print journalism.