It’s simple human nature to not appreciate something until you don’t have it anymore. We see this happen with people, objects, relationships and experiences. The feeling of not appreciating something until it’s gone is something that new college graduates often feel. We miss being on the yard. We miss the ups-and-downs of our HBCU experience. However, the predicament that this COVID-19 pandemic has us all in the same place. We all are deprived of our HBCU experience, alumni and students included. And, truthfully, we don’t know when we’ll return. “The idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the reentry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
It’s very possible that we won’t see a semblance of the collegiate life that we remember from before March 2020. Classes might stay online. Campuses might open up, serving almost as apartment facilities with online hybrid classes in effect. Maybe a vaccine or treatment can be determined before the Fall starts, sparking the debate on if the vaccine should be required for readmittance back into your institution. If not a required vaccine/treatment, what about required daily, weekly or monthly testing?
The largest casualty of the continuance of this pandemic is the possibility that the social customs of our HBCUs could be altered. No Welcome Week for the freshman that introduces them to HBCU life. No yard shows or Fall probates. No schoolwide or national pageants or rivalry football games. And, God forbid, no homecoming. I’ve been in conversation with several newly-elected HBCU SGA Presidents and I’ve discussed with them the possibilities of how an online homecoming would look. We all agree that it wouldn’t be the same.
This is the reality of where we are in the world. It’s not negative to speak about the news of the day. We’re not speaking into existence something that doesn’t already exist. We’re reliant on individuals in leadership that are either inept at their jobs or don’t look at every aspect of the situation before making a decision. The only thing that we can do is sit tight, gather enough information to develop informed opinions and count our blessings. It’s important to count our blessings. We’re alive. We’re able to shelter in our homes with access to technology and internet. And we have our memories. We have memories of how things used to be. Our memories shape expectations of how things will be once we’ve moved past this.
As we muse on our expectations, the biggest expectation is for us to appreciate our experiences at our institutions. I shouldn’t hear or see anyone complaining about their HBCU experience once we rebound from this pandemic. I shouldn’t hear anyone talking about how they don’t want to get dressed and go to class. The walk I took from Wildcat Commons 1 to Founders Hall at Fort Valley in the hot September sun seems worth it. I long for it now. I should see every event packed to capacity once we jump back to our semi-regular lives. I expect to see SGA Presidents and other SGA leaders engaging their leadership directly on issues and students to better mobilize instead of needlessly complaining on Twitter. I expect to see Royal Court members actively engaging both in-person and on social media the same ways that they’ve been doing as this pandemic has raged on. And, most importantly, I don’t want to hear anyone complain about how “lame” homecoming is.
I don’t care if your SGA books Barney The Dinosaur and Doc McStuffins like its a four-year old’s birthday party. That venue better be packed. There’s nothing wrong with pressing our leadership to to better for us or even laying out what we want and demand. It’s what’s worked for us so far during this pandemic as we’ve pressed our institutional, local, statewide and national leaders to act. However, this needless complaining just to complain must stop. What this pandemic should teach us is that nothing is promised. Something has to bring a level of appreciation for how good we’ve had it.
Look around and count your blessings. Take solace in the good times. That’s what we need for the weeks and months ahead. And, once we do get the opportunity to see each other again, every day of our shared HBCU experience should be the best party/cookout of our lives. I can’t wait for that day.