I am a proud graduate of two HBCUs. I graduated from Xavier University of New Orleans in 1990 with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Mass Communications; and I graduated from Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law in 1993. I grew up in New Orleans, a predominantly Catholic city. Although I am Baptist, I was educated in the Catholic school system from kindergarten through college, including attending Mercy Academy an all-girl Catholic high school consisting of 400 students, 40 of them Black, 9 in my senior class.
I started college in 1986. Xavier is the only Catholic HBCU. Not only did it offer the familiarity and structure of a Catholic education system, but it also offered men and lots of Black people! Whoa, Black people! Nothing like being around your own people. Some of the best memories and long-lasting friendships were made during those four years.
I have so many fond memories but one is attending the Dillard-Xavier basketball games. Dillard was our rival, another HBCU (Methodist). Those games were packed and drew students and nonstudents from near and far. I can remember us cheering loudly in the stands “X.U. ROCKS THE HOUSE” while rhythmically stomping on the bleachers. The sense of pride was ecstatic.
I remember Pope John Paul II visiting Xavier’s campus in 1987. He was the world leader of the Roman Catholic Church at the time. I was amazed that a black university would host such a special guest. It was another confirmation that I had chosen the right school. The visit made the world news.
The student center was certainly a central spot to gather, but the “yard” was the spot. No matter a student’s major or classification, this is where the commuters and out-of-towners pooled together. It was so exciting to see the Greeks on the yard, especially during pledging season. I scheduled my classes so that I would have Friday Noon as an off period because it was always a show to watch. Black sororities and fraternities were about matters like community service and social justice not just socials. I later pledged Delta Sigma Theta in 1993.
Some other campus activities centered around Homecoming, Friday Beer Blasts, and Fall and Spring Festivals. I believe in 1988 or ’89, Paul Mooney performed comedy on campus at our Spring Fest. I was on the entertainment committee and was designated his student guide. We stayed in touch over the years. He would be one of many comedians I would meet and work with or for over years to come. That experience at Xavier set the trajectory of my professional career with entertainers.
As a kid, I was always involved in the arts. I attended dancing school, sang in the choir, marched as a majorette in Mardi Gras parades and was in every school play. So, in 1988 it was no surprise that I would sign up for Xavier’s talent show. Reesa, Tammy and one of my best friends to this day Leiza, who I met at X.U, performed a well-choreographed dance routine to the Oaktown’s 3-5-7 hit song “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”. We looked like a real Hip Hop Group. We killed it; only to be knocked out of first place by a group of random guys who had no dance routine or costumes but they knew all the words to NWA’s “Gangsta, Gangsta”. So did the audience. Folks went crazy. I guess they deserved the win just for getting the place so hyped.
Xavier was not just about fun. It was about preparing young black men and women for the world. The Political Science Department introduced me to students that shared my same interest in politics. I participated in Phi Alpha Delta, a political science club. I got to hear Stokely Carmichael speak on campus. This type of exposure lead me to volunteer with the Democratic Party and later work on dozens of campaigns. This put me in some of the most influential circles. In fact, my studies at Xavier landed me a collegiate internship with the U.S. Trustee’s Office.
I could go on and on about my undergraduate experience. I appreciated an HBCU so much, I attended an HBCU law school to further my education. They both prepared me well. And I continue to give back either financially or my time to both to this day. I have had a wonderful life because of the foundation set by my HBCU experience. I live with no education regrets!