When HBCUs are on the news it’s usually not a good sign. In the last year, bomb threats, dorm issues, protests, and technology issues have been some of the main headlines from major news sources. These stories always depict feelings of loss, despair, and damage. Rarely, do you see the stories of joy and resilience that speak to the real soul of our institutions.
At Howard University, students learned to adjust to their new normal this academic year. This “normal” was comprised of relearning how to deal with an in-person class structure while going to school during a pandemic, watching student and adjunct faculty protests, experiencing isolation and battling depression.
For most, college is supposed to encourage freedom and possibility, yet many Howard students felt fearful and trapped. It was almost like they were waiting for another threat, another Covid-19 surge, or another protest to make them uneasy.
Following the tumultuous Blackburn Protests in October and bomb threats in February, Howard University students found comfort in their university’s community through concerts, open mics, and intimate dorm discussions. While the nation was engrossed in the drama on our campus, we had to live beyond the headlines. Howard students were forced to find a way to live productive lives while at times dealing with chaos.
Howard University students, Zoe Mickey, Trinity Holt, and Mickenzie Wiggins, believe there’s a method to finding peace in pain.
“I found peace in putting my energy into finding things I enjoy. [I] reach out and join clubs where I have a supportive group” said Wiggins, a sophomore psychology major hailing from New York. “Having multiple different groups of people for different aspects of your identity is really crucial to get by.”
Holt, who is a junior political science major, went on to further explain how the social connections students made were a key factor in allowing students to maintain their joy.
“Even spaces like GroupMe [a virtual platform for participants to connect in groups] have helped me laugh through the pain,” Holt stated. “There’s constant friendly banter and even in tough situations, Howard students find a way to help each other out.”
Mickey, a sophomore political science student with a minor in dance, shares a similar sentiment as her peers. She said that for her to prioritize her mental health through all of the events that transpired this academic year, she needed to be around the people who provided her the most happiness.
“I like to prioritize my mental health by leaving my dorm, going outside, and surrounding myself with people who give me genuine happiness. And people at Howard do that,” Mickey said.
Regardless of the circumstances at Howard, the students will always prevail. In the face of racism, terror, and health disparities students have found strength through unity.
“There is a special kind of joy that fills this university when students come together,” said Wiggins. “And I’m so thankful to be a part of that.”
Makenna Underwood is a sophomore journalism major from Hot Springs, Arkansas, attending Howard University.