Howard University: The place that gave Vice President-elect Kamala Harris 'confidence'

Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Howard University: The place that shaped Kamala Harris
Vice President-elect Harris graduated from Howard in 1986. Her recent success is shining a bright light on the historically Black university, fondly referred to as "The Mecca." It sits high on a hilltop in Washington, D.C.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Anderson and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris all have one place in common, Howard University.

Vice President-elect Harris graduated from Howard in 1986. Her recent success is shining a bright light on the historically Black university, fondly referred to as "The Mecca." It sits high on a hilltop in Washington, D.C.

"I definitely want kids to open their minds up to going to a historically Black college," said Alana Curtis, a Howard University alumnus from Oakland.

Howard University is the leading producer of Black students entering medical schools in the United States, the School of Business earned the number one spot by The Princeton Review as the "greatest opportunity for minority students." The list of accomplishments could go on for pages.

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"The reason that we have HBCUs is because we weren't afforded the opportunity to go to these institutions that a lot of people know about," said Jordan Taylor, a Howard University alumnus from Redwood Shores. "HBCUs have done a fine job of educating people. We're just finally getting our flowers now."

You do not have to be Black to go to an HBCU, but they were created in a time when Black people were denied admission to White institutions. Today, HBCUs continue to uplift Black history and forge bonds.

Dr. Jennifer Cohen is the Associate Director for Biosciences Diversity Programs at Stanford University and a Howard alumnus.

"I'm a molecular biologist by training," Dr. Cohen said. "(That) was forged at Howard University. Being surrounded and uplifted by Black mentors, seeing the diaspora, the African diaspora represented, meeting friends who had grandparents with graduate degrees blew my mind. Being introduced to Caribbean students, afro-Latina students, (I got to see) all of the ways that our African diaspora is incubated on Howard University's campus."

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Kamala Harris claims that historically black colleges and universities produce a disproportionate number of teachers compared to other schools.

For many students, it's the first time they're not the minority.

"For me I wanted a school where I felt like I truly belonged," San Francisco artist and Howard University alumnus, Kathrine Jarvis said. "I also feel that it built up my overall confidence being that I am a dark skin woman. I dealt with a lot of colorism in the Bay Area. It really gave me a great sense of pride."

Vice President-elect Harris has said that Howard University is where she gained confidence. If you remember, its also where she announced her run for president. As a student, not unlike many other Howard students, Harris was involved in activism, student government and her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha.

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Alpha Kappa Alpha is the oldest Black sorority. It was founded in 1908 on Howard University's campus. Her sorority sisters are beaming right now. Harris has broken a glass ceiling.

"Smashed it with a Howard hammer," Dr. Wayne Frederick, Howard University's president, said. "That's a hammer a lot of alum and students are being equipped with today. It's a tough job. We have to be honest about that as well. We have to remember that one person in the White house does not make this country a better place. All of us have a responsibility to make it."

Dr. Fredrick knows the HU family doesn't always agree on the politics and policies, but when you when you go to Howard or really any HBCU, you find family. We know families can disagree and still love.

"What I celebrate in Kamala Harris as well is I believe not only is she prepared, but this woman knows about community," Dr. Cohen said. "When you try to explain what that experience is, that Black college experience, especially coming from the Bay Area, or coming from a predominately White feel like you're home."