What Happens When Your Dream School Becomes a Nightmare: An Open Letter to Howard University

An open letter from a Howard student in light of the #BlackburnTakeover.

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Carol M. Highsmith

Howard University is not the dream school I thought it would be. However, if you asked me why I wanted to attend Howard, I would take you back to 2010 with a much different perception.


Picture this: a small and naive Black girl from a small town in Arkansas sits across from her mother, her barrettes dangling past her shoulder and her hand placed on her tiny chin in fascination. She's fascinated at her mother who is--for the first time--explaining to her daughter what HBCUs are. Her mother mentions several well known HBCUs but one sticks.


It stuck in that little black girl's mind until that little black girl grew out of barrettes and Barbies and grew into makeup and boy crazes. It stuck until she finally submitted that deposit and could boast with a puffed out chest that she was proud to attend her dream school: Howard University.


I am that little black girl.


Ever since second grade, I dreamed of the day I could step onto campus. I created this fictitious world where I would be immersed in this place of Black excellence and opulence. My Howard was a campus full of opportunities. My Howard had in-person classes that stimulated my mind and made me passionate about my career. My Howard was a place where I could be happy and healthy in my own skin.


So what should I tell that little Black girl that had such high hopes for Howard?


Do I tell her that she will struggle to pay attention because all of her classes are virtual (despite the University claiming most classes will be in-person)? Do I tell her that because of classism and elitism, she will still struggle to feel accepted in her own skin? Or do I tell her that day and night this little Black girl with sickle cell disease will cough like a veteran smoker because she has to sleep in a dorm filled with mold?


What do I tell her?


It took me a while to realize the school I had dreamed of for almost a decade was slowly