Beyoncé Goes Full HBCU at Coachella

It keeps building for Beyoncé, this strategy of infusing HBCU culture into the minds of millions. First, she was J-Setting. Then, two of her four inaugural ‘Formation Scholars’ were from HBCUs.

And then she brought the Drumline LIVE! band to co-sign her historic Coachella headline performance, becoming the first African American woman to headline the international music festival, and sharing the moment and spotlight with 100+ black schools starving for attention from the 99 percent of her fans who have never stepped foot on an HBCU campus.

We needed it. Big time. Several of our schools are on the verge of closure, and two have either announced or will announce plans to shutter in just the first four months of 2018. It’s not enough that nine out of every 10 black college students in the US attends a non-HBCU, but now black students are proudly talking about how masterful white institutions are becoming at creating wonderful experiences for them.

Howard University students and faculty have resorted to nuclear tactics to get their needs met, and its hard to tell whether they know the damage they are creating for their campus, and for the culture, doesn’t matter or is required to make necessary changes at the world’s flagship HBCU.

Beyoncé’s Coachella performance is an audiovisual salve for HBCU advocates worldwide, an HBCU-narrative EpiPen of sorts that we can jab into haters, skeptics and trolls to say “See, even Beyoncé knows how important we are!” But we know, like they do that Beyoncé isn’t fixing crooked trustee boards, broken tech and staff infrastructure, crumbling buildings or campus leaders and alumni who are complicit with the advancing takeover of our schools.

So we have to move like Beyoncé in leveraging the moment. She’s given us several of these over the years to take the fleeting attention we get from other black folks on our timelines, in our living rooms and in front of college students to boast about more than the fact that Beyoncé pays attention to us, but why we are worth paying attention at all.

In 2016, Gallup data showed that black college graduates have a more fulfilling experience on campus and are more personally satisfied in life after earning a degree from an HBCU than from a predominantly white institution.

Another recent study shows that black students of identical learning and socioeconomic profile are six to 16 percent more likely to graduate from an HBCU than from a PWI.

HBCUs create advance existential benefits for black people’s happiness, and their chances of professional achievement in a country where racist behavior is declining, but racist attitudes are steady among most white Americans, while HBCU presidents and supporters are working to find ways to reconcile how a repulsive president could be and should be recognized as an HBCU advocate. 

These metrics, the stories of our graduates, and the value we bring to our communities are the things we should be sharing – not just the nurturing, family feel on campus or how live our homecomings are.

Beyoncé keeps giving us the moments to capitalize. We just have to go full throttle on converting casual fans into disciples.

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