Being An HBCU All-Star Day 1: First Airplane Ride, Meeting All-Stars & The Reception


Monday, 9/18/17, 4:30 AM

I can’t believe I’m here. I mean, I know I learned that I was an All-Star back in July and we’ve been through a lot to get to DC but it’s just surreal to me. It really hit me when I was sitting at the Invite Only reception for the HBCU All-Stars and our Presidents. I looked down at my name badge and looked up at where I was. It was unbelievable! Who knew that I would get this far so quickly. Just to think, all I wanted to do was write a book!

This trip so far has been a learning experience. I know we haven’t been here but only for so long but I’ve still been through things that’ll aid in my growth. Riding on a plane for the first time was a perfect example. Before yesterday, I’d never even been close to riding on a plane. The closest I’d been to an airport was getting one of those rental vehicles from that place in Macon! It was a struggle watching my family see me off in the Delta Airport as I went through TSA and got my bags checked. I knew it had to happen though. I see this trip as my rights-of-passage. This is me finally becoming a man. I know when I touch back down in Georgia I’m going to be different. This experience is going to shape me.

It wasn’t too hard to ride on the plane for the first time, seeing as though I wasn’t alone. The day after I was announced as an HBCU All-Star, I made friends with an All-Star from FAMU named Imani Cooper. One thing I was nervous about from the jump was meeting new people that were just as accomplished, if not more, than me. How would I stand alongside these future doctors, engineers and computer scientist? I just want to write books and do some stuff in media!

Imani Cooper, one of FAMU’s 3 HBCU All-Stars and I.

Imani was able to keep my spirits high, even during the tough times leading up to our DC trip. We always found a way to trip out when we were on the phone too! I was excited to know that we’d be catching the same flight over to DC. I knew definitively I’d be on the flight with someone familiar. Now, my Provost Dr. Stuart was on the same flight as we were and I think we were both surprised to see each other! Shout out to him for looking out for me and making FVSU look good out here. My administration is great man!

I also met another All-Star from Southern named Lea. She’s intelligent and so positive. Imani, Lea and I hit it off instantly. You would’ve thought that we’d known each other for years! The varying experiences that we had at our respective institutions was amazing. We traded stories back and forth until we got on the flight. Speaking of that flight, everything was smooth. Was I nervous to fly for the first time? Yes! There’s a difference between being nervous and scared though!

To me, being nervous meant that I was a little anxious to try something as new as not riding on the ground to get to the destination that I wanted to go.  Scared is shaking and screaming when you can tell the plane is about to take off! I knew I was gonna be a man through it. My dad raised me better than that. Let him have found out I acted less than what he expects of me on that plane. Boy, I would never live that down!

The flight was smooth. Honestly, it felt like I was on the professional “Soul Plane”. Delta Airlines ATL has to be the blackest airline in America! They have black TSA officers, black flight attendants and even black shows on the TV’s on the plane. They even had D’Angelo’s The Best So Far… compilation album. Imagine listening to “Brown Sugar” as you land in Arlington, Virginia! Yeah, that was me!

We got off the flight and Dr. Stuart got us an Uber (shout out to my Dad, who should just buy stock in Uber with how he tries to get me to download the app). We pulled up at his hotel in a clean Black Suburban. Key word: his hotel, not ours! It took us standing in their for like 30 minutes and then getting to the front desk and learning we didn’t have rooms in this hotel to realize that it wasn’t the one that we were supposed to be at. Shout out to the receptionist that let us know we were in the wrong place and gave us A1 instructions to get to the correct location. She was more precise than Google Maps!


Lea, Imani and I walked to the correct hotel and it was nice taking in the scenery of Arlington. It’s a beautiful city! There was so many works of art along the walls of the buildings we walked by. We even saw the Westin, that hotel that Kanye West rapped about in 2Chainz “Birthday Song”

She said how bout I get you jewelry from the West End

How bout she hit the Westin and get her best friend”

I know you’re probably thinking, “Was that the first time Randall heard of the Westin?” Yes, it was! Why was that the first thing I thought about? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure Lea and Imani thought the same thing! Anyway, we got to our right hotel and met a few of the other All-Stars. We’re all in a GroupMe together so it was like we already knew each other! We were basically just down there chilling until we went over and finally met Elyse Jones, the reason why we’re even here! It was amazing finally meeting her in person. She’s responsible for the beast everybody is gonna see when I hit campus on Wednesday! Everything up here is training for what we have planned moving forward!

The rest of the day just flew by. We went to eat at this walk in Burger Shop after Shawn from Savannah State and I realized that it was Sunday and Chick-Fil-A was closed. We all went back to our hotel and changed into our business professional clothes so we could attend the All-Star reception. It was our first official ceremony as HBCU All-Star Ambassadors for this year. It was also official picture day, as we took like 1000 pictures! I loved every moment though!

Fast forward back to where I started. Looking down at my name badge and looking around at where I was. I looked around and saw the best and brightest from HBCU’s around the nation. I was humbled that I was even given this position. I can’t wait to finally see the White House! Hopefully, I’ll have even more stories to tell after today.

Excited and humbled,

Randall Barnes



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