Opinion: Why HBCUs Remain the Bedrock of the Black Community

Houston native, Megan Thee Stallion, draws big attention to Texas Southern University with December graduation.

By Shelby Stewart November 18, 2021

Megan Thee Stallion has announced that she will graduate from Texas Southern University in December.

HBCUs have laid the foundation for many successful careers, so much so that celebrities and high-profile figures will send their children to these schools across the nation.  Prominent HBCU graduates are some of the most distinguished people in history, with Black leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison. Today, these universities are still producing influential scholars and leaders, with notable names like Reverend Raphael Warnock, a Morehouse graduate and Georgia’s first Black senator, Kamala Harris, a Howard graduate and first Black Vice President of the United States, and Garrett Morris, Dillard University graduate, and an award-winning actor.

Now, joining this stellar list of names is Houston’s own Megan Thee Stallion. The Houston native recently shared her graduation photos on social media, letting fans know that she’s met the requirements to obtain her degree from Texas Southern University. 

Her Houston-inspired photoshoot shows Megan on TSU’s campus, as well as photos of the artist in front of a collection of slabs. She writes on Instagram, “Showed my ass and still went to class. IMA ALWAYS STAND OUT WITH NO HANDOUTS. Doing everything they said I can’t/couldn’t! Megan Thee Mf Stallion aka the mf Htown Hottie is graduating Dec 11th from TEXAS SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY now go and talk abt that!”

When the “WAP” rapper catapulted from her early Make It Hot mixtape in 2017 to mainstream success with projects like Fever and Suga, fans learned she was still a college student. Megan, now 26, has always placed a high value on receiving her education, as the notion was implanted in her from a young age by her grandmother. While on her meteoric rise to stardom, the femcee first attended Prairie View A&M University, another local HBCU located roughly 50 miles outside of Houston, pursuing a degree in healthcare administration, and eventually transferred to the Third Ward bastion to take classes part-time, while her music career began to take shape. 

Last year, during an interview with PEOPLE, she said, “I want to get my degree because I really want my mom to be proud. I want my big mama to be proud. She saw me going to school before she passed. My grandmother that’s still alive used to be a teacher, so she’s on my butt about finishing school. I’m doing it for me, but I’m also doing it for the women in my family who made me who I am today.”

While the self-proclaimed H-Town Hottie is a full-time artist and entertainer, she also has dreams that lie in community outreach, with future plans to open up healthcare facilities around the City of Houston. While she opted for online classes while her music career was on the rise, both PVAMU and TSU proudly supported the Houston star. HBCUs aren’t just schools that provide education, but cultural spaces that shape and mold you into adulthood and grant young minorities a sense of pride in who they are, giving them the confidence to take on the world and all it has to offer. 

Megan’s academic success is a momentous occasion, and she boldly showcases her accomplishment, as well as pride in her soon-to-be alma mater. But, I would be remiss if I failed to discuss the strife that HBCU’s and their students are currently going through. HBCUs have existed in the United States for centuries, and somehow we’re still battling against the validity of these sacred institutions. Statistics show that at HBCUs, over time, the percentages of bachelor’s and master’s degrees conferred to Black students by these universities have significantly decreased. HBCUs conferred 35 percent of the bachelor’s degrees and 21 percent of the master’s degrees Black students earned in 1976–77, compared with 13 and 6 percent, respectively, in 2018–19. 

This could be attributed to a number of factors, including declined enrollments and infrastructure demands, like the ongoing story of Howard students protesting poor on-campus housing, and Morris Brown recently regaining its accreditation after 20 years and nearly closing.

These minority-serving colleges and universities have gone years with severe underfunding, and hope to see change within the Biden administration under the “human infrastructure” package. But funding and support from the federal government have been deferred for far too long, and changes are long overdue. As a fellow HBCU graduate, of Dillard University, the newfound support of HBCUs is well deserved, but also decades behind. If these higher education institutions have produced such greats as the aforementioned, why do they receive so little visibility and amplification of its issues?

Texas Southern alone, within the last year, has undergone internal turmoil, as former president Dr. Austin Lane was accused of being involved in an admissions scandal after failing to take action or inform the board of fraud allegations involving a former official of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law. 

Despite narratives reckoning the demise of these storied schools due to declining enrollments, infrastructure needs, and lack of investment, HBCU students have endured. These resilient institutions play a role in building women and men who are prepared to lead the nation. Houston’s claim to fame for HBCUs are luminaries like Michael Strahan, Yolanda Adams, and Texas Representative Al Green, all graduates of Texas Southern University. In addition, former Los Angeles Laker’s Center, Shaquille O’Neal’s son and daughter both attend TSU, with basketball scholarships. 

When attending Dillard University, I’d often hear, “it looks like a plantation” and in fact at one point it was一and the school has maintained the integrity of most of its original buildings, having been founded in 1869, and withstanding Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Although each school is etched with its own deep and significant history, in order to remain progressive institutions, they should not only receive funding from the federal government, but genuine respect for what they are, and support that parallels what you see at predominantly white institutions.

Today, HBCU's relevance is arguably more important than ever. In 2021, the notion is materialized in the overwhelming number of graduates affecting change across the nation. With high-profile grads like Megan Thee Stallion, there’s hope for a better tomorrow for these illustrious colleges. 


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