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Kalia N. Baker Headshot

HBCU Glory Days

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The soundtrack to Friday night dinner parties at my house was the humorous and intriguing conversations between the truest of friends. Friends who met on the yards of Historically Black Colleges on the first day of freshman orientation and were there until the last one in the group graduated. Friends who had supported one another through their first round of college finals---who held the secrets of spring breaks, cried down the aisles of weddings and on the front pews of funerals and videotaped the births of first children.

My kitchen was filled with aunts and uncles swapping stories from their glory days at Clark, Howard and Tuskegee. Fridays nights at the Bakers' had the energy of a college party and the passion of a board room meeting. Whispers of political opinions and lives as veterinarians, oral surgeons, and business owners filled the room and floated over the delectable meals that had been prepared. The bar through the library buzzed with the memories they could still remember that early in the evening.

Stories beginning with "Remember Dr. So-and-So?", or "He married HER?" enticed me further about their world. I was never openly invited to listen to "grown-folk" conversation, but I'd eavesdrop intently from the loft area where all us children were designated to entertain ourselves.

My mother and father always told me they met their friends for life in college, referring to it as "school," as if it taught them more than what was on the pages of textbooks. My parents joyously reminisce about the campus where they met and fell in love as a young couple. They bragged about the nearly indescribable bond that is created while attending an HBCU. I would never understand exactly what they meant until August 2009 on Spelman's campus.

Absorbing the stories of an HBCU life gave me hope for friendship, love and success. I knew I would attend an HBCU because there was a cultural puzzle piece missing in my life, an untold story about my history that was not in the repetitive lessons my white teachers thought were expanding horizons or bringing awareness. The predominantly white institutions I had attended my entire life were only part of my choice to attend Spelman College. Each time I heard "Spelman," it sparkled. The enchantment that grabbed me was about a place where my voice as a black woman would not only be relevant, but also grow.

I got into Penn and Duke but chose Spelman -- an institution of rich legacy and history. Spelman's very existence appeals to me, especially in a world where HBCUs are not the most praised or respected institutions. In some people's minds, HBCUs are not as efficient as majority schools.

But in attending Spelman, a feeling of accomplishment and pride settles over me, assuring me I made the right decision.