The Vermont Connection


Lilu Barbosa


In my experience, knowledge and awareness of the worth of the United States (US) Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) seems to be transferred primarily through informal venues: conversations and interactions with friends and colleagues who have experienced them first-hand. In retrospect, it seems that prior to enrolling in higher education I was left in the dark about the academic institutions originally created to serve my particular demographic. Progressive thinkers, politicians and the academic elite espouse values such as diversity and equity. While the country has made large strides, students and professionals alike continue to fuel the misconception that education at HBCUs is sub-par. I have witnessed the manifestation of these internalized messages numerous times. The pervasive nature of this oppressive thinking can be startling. The remarks and attitudes are present in a variety of settings. In my mind, it translates to the notion that to be Black is inferior. This message has been emphasized in personal encounters, academic settings, and in the offices of high school guidance counselors. In response to this phenomenon, I ponder ways to be proactive improving this perception and do away with negative imagery that has been assigned to some of the US’ most historic institutions – the HBCUs. This article is intended to be a reflection of those challenging moments as well as a starting point for exploring potential ways to initiate change with the current perceptions.