By Nicholas A. Curry,Staff Writer
It is obvious that some American citizens are not aware of the significance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. This is okay, but I feel it is my duty to enlighten the uninformed.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities were founded for African-American people, to give them the opportunity to receive a college education at a time when they were considered unequal. Actually, African-Americans were treated as property and cattle during the emergence of black colleges.
Our ancestors were raped, beaten, and fed scraps on a daily basis for over two hundred years. Before the creation of historically black colleges, black people were not granted the opportunity to receive an education.
If an ancestor was caught reading or practicing their penmanship they would be severely beaten. Slave masters had one ultimate goal, to ensure the Negro felt less than a human being at all times.
This harsh treatment did not discourage black folk from educating themselves. They attended secret, underground schools where they learned how to read and write; this was kept secret from their oppressors. The hate of the oppressor could never overcome the Negro’s desire for seeking knowledge.
Many abolitionists or anti-slavery advocates decided to invest in the educational advancement of African-Americans. These abolitionists decided to open institutions of higher education for black people to give them a chance at gaining knowledge.
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania was the first HBCU that opened on the behalf of African-Americans, eighteen years before slavery was abolished. The campuses of HBCUs are extremely sacred and have historical significance for many reasons.
So many of our ancestors were hanged and killed throughout the period of slavery. They prayed to see better days, but unfortunately many were unable to. Though they did not live to see these “better” days, they prayed they would come for future generations. Our people died so one day we could walk freely through our college campuses. The grass in particular is considered “hallowed ground” on many HBCU campuses.
For those who are uninformed, a college campus is for the students that attend the institution. Yes, visitors are welcomed, however, visitors are expected to show respect to the campus while on campus. Some people believe the community should have full access to their neighborhood’s college campuses at all times. In fact, they believe their dogs should have full access too.
Tensions have been high in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington D.C. over the past few weeks. Newly-moved residents of the neighborhood have been walking their dogs throughout Howard University’s campus, even in the areas that are known to students, faculty, and staff as “off limits.”
One resident was interviewed last week regarding the tension between community members and Howard students. He was on record saying “if students have a problem with people walking their dogs, just move the campus.” Move the campus? Move the campus of a 152-year-old institution that represents black culture and excellence? Move the campus of an institution that has been producing black professionals for over a century? Move the campus so you can walk your dog?
Howard’s President released a statement to community members and asks them to please respect the campus.
“Dear Howard University Family, Our campus is a beautiful, sacred space that provides comfort and, in many ways, sanctuary in a place that feels more like a second home than merely an academic institution.
‘‘The Upper Quadrangle, commonly referred to as the Yard, is a treasured site of many auspicious occasions. Our Commencement Ceremony is the ultimate long walk that symbolizes a sacred tradition, symbolic of every student’s matriculation. The Howard University community wants to see this area remain pristine and symbolic of all that Howard University represents.
‘‘We are aware of the concerns regarding dog walking across campus. Howard is a private institution nestled in the heart of an urban city and we’ve shared a long-standing positive relationship with our evolving community for more than 150 years, which we look forward to continuing in the future.
‘‘We can relate to the Nation wanting to visit and witness the Howard mystique. The institution has a tradition of opening our doors for everyone to observe the best that Howard University has to offer. We’ve shared many symposiums, workshops and concerts with our neighbors. Our annual parade proudly wraps through the surrounding streets and our students walk safely through the neighborhood.
‘‘At the beginning of my presidency we held regular meetings that included students, faculty and members of the Advisory Neighborhood Committees to cultivate a town and gown relationship. I recently reached out to our local ANC and Councilwoman to engage in a dialogue. We recognize that service animals are a necessary aspect of modern-day life and we will accommodate them as needed. We appreciate pet owners respecting our campus by not bringing pets onto the private areas.
‘‘Thank you for your emails and expressive thoughts surrounding this matter. I will always work in the best interest of the Howard University community.
‘‘Excellence in Truth and Service,
‘‘Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA
Our schools are not dog parks.