Your PWI Black Experience is NOT the HBCU Experience

Most HBCU students and graduates can agree that if you haven’t attended a historically black college or university then you missed out on certain type of college experience filled with rich history and tradition.

Recently on Twitter,  black students at PWIs have felt the need to call themselves having an HBCU experience “a thing” for a while.

Adopting certain traditions like a class shuffle, swag surfing, and other events have given the predominately white institution attendees to claim their colleges to be “an HBCU” by picking up qualities in which they deem as HBCU culture.

Blavity published an article written by sbowen in which she named “I went to a PWI and still had a black college experience.”

The title already is skewed because there’s no way anyone can have a true HBCU experience without simply attending one. The writer has angered HBCU students and graduates believing the author is devaluing their educational experience to wearing a bonnet outside, spades, and lit parties.

The students at universities like University of Houston have been self claimed themselves as a HBCU and black students at other universities like Texas State and SFA created their own communities by using the hashtags like #BlackTXST.

The problem isn’t with the hashtags or the sense of trying to create a black community within a huge community its the fact that they are trying to create something that will never be there.

Going to an HBCU is more than the stereotypes. The author described “nooses hung in front of [their] cultural house, fraternities and sororities throwing parties with racist themes and guests in blackface, [their] events being over-policed, [their] intelligence questioned, and [her] peers not understanding why [she wears] a bonnet as [she] checked the mailbox” are the exact reasons we go to an HBCU, to be understood.

No it doesn’t  “destroy black culture at the university” and maybe “the adversity [can make their community stronger [and] more organized” but it still doesn’t equate to being an HBCU student.

The total population of sbowen’s university is 46,000 with only 2,300 black students in which she states that “there were more of us at my PWI than some HBCUs entire populations – including Morehouse, Spelman, Dillard and Fisk.” These numbers still doesn’t make it a college of rich Black history.

source: Facebook
source: Facebook

By definition, an HBCU is defined as “historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are institutions of higher education in the United States that were established before 1964 with the intention of primarily serving the African American community.” The author lacks the main component of the definition, “with the intention of primarily serving the African American community.”

Of course your black community is going to serve one another because you are the minorities and feel like you have to stick together but as a whole, the university doesn’t primarily cater to you.

The “chicken and spades parties” or chilling on “The Stoop” is not how we earned our credibility or the title of HBCU but the historical value behind every university’s name.

Every stereotype in this article made me think that sbowen is yearning to be something that she’s not and takes a lot of things out of context.

Comparing her “black college experience” to having a “black” homecoming,  hanging out in one area to “[congregate] during the day to discuss racial politics, spill tea, shoot dice or just chill between classes”, and chicken and spades is not only devaluing our institutions but makes me question her perception of being black.

Of course black culture is alive at PWIs but is this all people from the outside see HBCUs as?  Being at an HBCU is an experience that can not be made up for by just joining the Black Student Union or the NAACP at your Top 10 college.


It’s the sense of belonging that you try to create, that has already been established for us from the founding of our university.  Our universities are created to work with us and not against us and we learn how to work within a system that wasn’t designed for us.

Our staff, faculty, and educators look like us and understand us inside and outside of the classroom. The atmosphere that you receive at a historically black university is not one that you can try to replicate and honestly get the full value.

It’s like substituting Granny’s homemade love filled dressing for box dressing from Wal-Mart for Thanksgiving. It’s not nearly the same and it can not be substituted.

Check out the original article here.


India Monee'12 Posts

India Monee' is currently a senior at Prairie View A&M University pursuing a degree in mass communications with a minor in marketing. On the side she loves to vlog her life on her Youtube channel and blog her thoughts on her lifestyle blog, The Downtown Tea. She describes her personality as something in between glitter & goon. Social Media Junkie. Media Maven. Entertainment Journalist. Radio Lover. Create-Dream-Inspire.


  • Niece Reply

    October 3, 2016 at 1:33 PM

    I feel as though this article is alluding to the idea that black students at PWI’s should be ashamed that they long to create a space to feel included in the conversation. Now granted, a more educated assumption of the HBCU experience would not motivate one to say what Swoben described it as. However, to form a rebuttal attacking Swoben for attempting to create an environment where she feels included is not helping to fix the problem at hand. The problem being that HBCU’s feel that they are being degraded and black conscious folks at PWI’s aspire to be around other black conscious folks like them. A more helpful way to address this problem is to work together as black people to advise those that long for acceptance the keys to accurately create that. Because simply put, most of us who attend PWI’s know we will never be HBCU’s just as well as you all do.

  • Jerrilyn Reply

    May 22, 2017 at 7:38 AM

    Since my tweet was used for this article…

    At TXST University, I do not long to be at an HBCU. If that were the case, I would’ve attended the many that acceped me. #BlackTXST is simply what we call the the Black community at TXST. We have our own culture and small world within Texas State. We are not looking to “[substitute]” or recreate an experience, but to create our own sense of unity within our campus. It’s crazy how uniting on the commonality of being Black, has pushed for authors to critique and ridicule something so positive. Who would have thought Black people coming together when being surrounded by White was a bad thing… actually it sounds quite familiar, maybe even historical in a sense…

    People faught hard for people of color to be able to attend PWIs. BLACK PEOPLE, specifically 5 Black Women at TXST, faught hard for people of color to have the opportunity to attend a PWI. They didn’t work that hard for us to be complacent and attend only schools that are dominated by people that look exactly like us. Yes, the experience at an HBCU may be phenomenal, but the common factor is we are all Black people pursuing high education. That should be the focus. Not the fued or bashing of students that choose to attend a PWI.

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