O Howard, We Sing of Thee!
This past weekend was Howard University's graduation weekend. It was also my reunion weekend. I cannot believe that it has been 20 years! Where did the time go? I remember putting on my bachelor's gown Mother's Day weekend of 1998 and dreaming of the day that I'd return to Howard as a professor and live in LeDroit Park. Lo and behold, I put on my doctoral regalia this past Saturday morning, walked up the hill from my "smouse" (small house) in LeDroit Park, and marveled at how the universe works. None of this journey happened the way I thought it would. Even the circumstances that led me to Howard arose very differently than I ever would have imagined, but in so many ways I've come full circle.
The first semester of my freshman year, Nelson Mandela arrived at Howard a few months after having been elected president of South Africa. The Yard was electric that fall morning, and I knew that Howard was every bit as magical as I'd suspected that it might be. Nelson Mandela died the semester I arrived on campus as an assistant professor. (Our 2018 commencement orator, actor Chadwick Boseman, "Black Panther" and fellow Howard alum whose time at The Mecca overlapped my own, also described Howard as "magical" in his commencement address.)
I didn't expect to return to Howard so soon. I'd made a home for myself in North Carolina and was quite happy there. Frankly, as time passed, I'd all but forgotten about the years I'd spent dreaming of my return to Howard. When it happened unexpectedly, I won't pretend that I was ecstatic about leaving North Carolina. I kept thinking of what I was losing -- my friends, my beautiful house, proximity to family in Georgia... And I was still trying to recover emotionally and professionally from the devastating loss of my father. Nothing about the move appealed to me in that moment.
But in his oration to the HU Class of 2018, Boseman spoke about being on the path you're meant to be on -- even when you can't see it. These past five years at Howard have connected me to people and places I would not have otherwise encountered. I found a place to nurture my nascent interest in Bioethics (at NIH), thanks to my former HU professor, Segun Gbadegesin. I've found new family with my elderly neighbor who looks after me like a father would. And I met my partner, who although he is from NC, I never would have encountered there (because he is from the sticks).
Most importantly for my "reflections on returning to Howard purposes," I have students who I absolutely love. Nothing has made me prouder to be here than watching my students succeed. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed my students everywhere I've been, but there truly is something magical about Howard. I hope my students realize just how invested in their growth and success. (I think most of them do. After I told one of my students that I'd never read my Rate My Professor "reviews," she saw fit to read some aloud to me. My only disappointment regarding my students' anonymous assessment of me was the dearth of chili peppers.)