Being An HBCU All-Star Day 2: Meeting Omorosa & Betsy Devos, Networking With BET & Attending A Church Business Reception


Tuesday, 9/19/17, 7:53 PM

This has to be the most interesting writing that I’ve ever done! It’s not for any particular reason. There’s nothing different about the style, flow, voice or word choice. The difference is where I’m writing. I’m currently on my Delta flight back to Atlanta. I look out the sky and I see nothing but misty white skies and lights faintly flickering from the buildings feet below us. My first time flying, I decided to kick back and chill. This time around, I have to write something down!

I would’ve awakened and written something this morning but I got in at 1 AM after talking to former All Star Marquise McGigf about how to make the best of my Initiative. It was a conversation that was needed. Plus, I wanted to make sure that I had enough rest to make it throught the day comfortably. I knew that we’d be going to the White House and the Smithsonian African-American History Museum and you never know what could happen and who you could meet. I’m jumping ahead of myself. Let’s talk about Day 2!

Of course, I woke up and immediately started writing. I set my alarm to wake up at 3:30 but something in me told me to go on and get up and get ready. I walked into the lobby, which was pitch black. The moon and the streetlights outside gave enough light for me to conceivably sit down and write. However, I didn’t know that the lobby was closed. A police officer encountered me. I had a feeling what he was about to say, so I immediately let him know what my intentions were.

“Hello sir. I was just wondering if I could sit out here in the lobby and work on my writing.”

Every time I said a sentence, he seemed to respond 5 minutes later. I guess the fact that I was dressed in my business casual attire ready to make my way to the Eisenhower building at 3:55 in the morning caught him by surprise. I’m pretty sure the only people that were awake was us. Of course, he was there to do his job. I just woke up due to sheer dedication and love for my craft. Maybe that’s what floored him.

Or, maybe it’s because I was black. Yeah, we’ll go with that!

He directed me to go down to the “Matinise” level where the business center was located. It was full of light, not my ideal writing spot. If I wanted to write in the light I would sat at a restaurant table at 3 PM with the Sun beaming right down on me. I made it work. Sure, it wasn’t my dorm back at Fort Valley where I could go out into the living room area of my dorm with my charger (because I can never keep anything electronic charged) and my box fan (for a white noise that keeps me focused). However, the fan noise on YouTube came in handy. Ended up writing five pages and topping off at 1,000+. My writing has been unstoppable recently!

I would’ve ended up writing 11 pages of content but we were supposed to be boarding the shuttle bus that was taking us to the White House for “breakfast”. More on that in a second! I managed to post my article up on Urban Intellectuals and make it out to the shuttle bus in no time at all. I was all set up to sit back, chill and get ready to make my first historic visit to the White House. Something troubled me though. As the All-Stars started to fill up, I noticed I didn’t see Imani.

If you remember, Imani is my friend from FAMU that was the first person I connected with and got cool with from our cohort. I knew something was up when I didn’t see her. My first intention was to call her to see what was going on but I didn’t. I just knew Imani was coming. A minute passed and I knew I had to text her. The bus drivers that the Initiative had for us were ready to go. There’s no such thing as CP time for black people that drive shuttle busses in DC. If you’re scheduled to leave at 7:00, they’re pulling out at 6:59.99! They don’t even take their foot off the gas man!

I looked at my clock and it was 5:55. I texted her to see what was up and she told me that she overslept and that she was coming. I was relieved when I saw her walk onto the bus with time to spare. Why did I care so much? For one, she is my friend! If you don’t check on your friends to see what’s up with them in situations such as this, you’re not that much of a good friend. I’m not for showing fake love (shout out to Drake)!

Plus, I was always taught to look out for people that look out for me. I always put myself on the flip side of situations such as that. What if I overslept and was rushing trying to get down to where I needed to be on a tight deadline? I know it would make me feel good if someone checked on me. This philosophy served me good at the end of the third day of our trip but I’ll talk about that more later.

As we rode to the Eisenhower Building, I had a feeling something out of our comfort zone was going to happen. I felt like Trump would pop up and try to speak with us but he was at a summit out of state so I knew it was farfetched. HBCU students visiting Washington DC was the furthest thing from his mind, especially with North Korea flexing their military muscles. When I ruled him out, I knew that we’d end up meeting Omarosa and Betsy Devos. It was automatic. I mean, why wouldn’t they make an appearance? With all that’s going on in the news, they need all the positive press they can get.

So, we pulled up at the Eisenhower building and they had us go through an extensive security check-in. We had to have been checked three times for the exact same thing. What, I’m going to just appear with a weapon after I walked five steps from the last person that checked me out. For a second I thought they were gonna have to strip search us to make sure we didn’t have anything!

So, we make it into the Eisenhower Building and go to this nice room where we’d be having our first morning sessions. They let us know they took the liberty of getting us “breakfast” and I was appreciative because I was starving! I was expecting for there to be grits, bacon, eggs and pastries there waiting for us with plates that had the presidential seal on it. Well, I’m halfway right at least! They had pastries and….napkins. They basically made a stop by their nearest Wal-Mart, bought some muffins and bagels, put it in a tray and called it a morning! Don’t get me wrong now, that blueberry muffin I got was bussin’! However, my stomach was growling like the Wildcat on my shirt for more food! Scratch more, some food!

We sat in the room for about thirty minutes just walking around and talking to ourselves. Elyse’s mom, a proud volunteer for the program, wanted us to come up and introduce ourselves to the room to break the ice. My man from Alabama State David King went up there and tore the house down when he declared that he’d be President of the United States by 2032. Speak it into existence brother! Say the year and everything! I speak into existence that I’m gonna be his press secretary and communications director. I’m taking every opportunity that I have.

Of course, I went up and promoted Urban Intellectuals and the fact that I’d be recapping our trip in article and video form. Before I got a chance to even say anything, Elyse came in and said that we had special guest coming by. We then learned that Omarosa and Betsy Devos wanted to speak with us. Now, let’s quantify this thing. The “special guest” was not Omarosa and Betsy Devos. Nope, the special guest was the new Executive Director of the White House Initiative on HBCU’s Jonathan Holifield who we met thirty minutes later.


How I viewed it, our encounter with Omarosa and Betsy Devos wasn’t planned. It was something that was sort of thrown together at the last minute but they made it work. What was supposed to be us having various workshops on how to be effective leaders on our campuses and execute our initiatives to the best of our abilities quickly turned into a whole program where we sat in the Eisenhower Building press room and Omarosa, Betsy Devos and the new Executive Director addressed us.

We were then called up to the stage to be formally recognized as HBCU All-Stars. It was surreal that we were finally getting formally recognized as HBCU All-Stars but my excitement was accompanied by some worry. I mean, we are in the same room with Betsy Devos and Omarosa. They aren’t the most liked public figures in Washington, plus some media outlets like to create their own stories to comment on that are as far from their truth as you can get. Plus, they get unsubstantiated sources that barely even important in their own minds. I’m just going to leave that there…

I was put at ease when I got the idea to document what was said. Imani assisted me in getting pictures and videos of everything. It was at that point I became determined to tell the real stories behind my All-Star cohort and our initiatives. We can’t allow others to tell our stories. We have to push our own narrative or we’re slaves to the outlet with the biggest voice. We shout through a megaphone here at Urban Intellectuals!

Mr. Holifield didn’t really say much outside of giving us a general introduction into his background. After that, we went back into the room we were in originally. That’s when things got interesting. We met the Vice President and Channel Manager of Magic Johnson’s ASPIRE TV Melissa Ingram. Right in front of me I saw the living embodiment of where I want to be in a few years. I’d love to be a big wig at a network calling shots and making my network the most competitive it can be. Seeing her, I saw that my dream was possible! She was incredibly nice too! I expect to learn a tremendous amount of things from her.

Fast forward to later on in the afternoon. I was in a Mass Communications major’s dream situation. I was in the same room as representatives from Viacom/BET, Warner Brothers and Stacy Milner, a tenured entertainment industry veteran over the HBCUs in LA program who was looking to put black people on. Man, I was a kid in a candy store! I would’ve shed a tear (a Denzel Washington in Glory tear) if I wasn’t in this room full of beautiful black women. Can’t be looking weak out here now!

We then made our way to the Association of American Medical College for our reception. The building was top notch and I happened to meet an Albany State alumni that worked there. This trip has given me a slightly new perspective of those Rams! They’re pretty cordial, plus Albany’s All-Star this year Erin is amazing! More on her in the next entry! So, we got to the building and I finally got a chance to sit down and talk with the superwoman herself, Lincoln University’s (Missouri) All-Star Brionna Adams. Brionna actually designed two of the shirts that I wore Monday and Tuesday of our trip. It gave me joy to see her smile when she saw us in them! I know that feeling! It’s the same feeling I get when someone wants to purchase my book!

Imani (who was also wearing her FAMU custom shirt made by Brionna) and I had a mini photo shoot for Bionna and, a few minutes later, Brionna and had a dope conversation. To say that I was blown away by her ambitions and hustle is an understatement! I knew I was sitting next to a future billionaire, the next Oprah Winfrey! Her hustle is incredible and her determination to become a doctor and help cancer patients was admirable! This trip gave me hope that I might get married one of these days, especially if I have the privilege of finding a black woman of this caliber!

After taking 100 pictures on the front stairs (to add to the 500 we took since we touched down in DC), we finally entered the ballroom for the reception. The reception quickly turned into Sunday morning service when our esteemed speaker got up to speak. The way he turned a simple motivational speech into a sermon was something out of a movie. If he quoted some scripture, I bet some of us would’ve started shouting and running around the ballroom like they used to do back at Beulahland in Macon with E. Dewey Smith was there! I wonder if our speaker can do the cat scream Pastor Smith used to do. Maybe I should’ve asked him to try!

After that, the rest of the day was a blur. We went up to the rooftop of the building and enjoyed looking at DC from the sky. We then went back to the hotel and I witnessed some of my All-Star peers doing an interview. We signed cards for Elyse to show her our appreciation (more on that in the next recap) and, most importantly, we went to sleep.

Oh yeah, I didn’t forget about the Dairy Queen chicken tenders we were served for lunch! I thought I needed to ask them to hold the gravy! I was wrong when I thought they’d have us eating like the president. Then, the White House gave us one of those small doggy plates! Two of the chicken tenders filled up the plate and some of us had to balance 3 plates to get something that would make us half full! But, I digress!

This day defined the reason why I became an All-Star. I wanted to be in the mix of what goes on with HBCU’s. I want to be the conduit into which Fort Valley State University students get opportunities brighter than what they’ve ever imagined. And, most importantly, I wanted to meet phenomenal young men and women that showed me that success is possible if you keep your faith and always continue to hustle.


Randall Barnes



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