A Return of “A Different World”

Author: Brennan E. Wells;

As a life long advocate of the written word, it is rare for me to advocate for the consumption of news, entertainment, and culture outside of reading and culture. Yet as times change, so too must I to reach better solutions. The change I seek is a return to “A Different World”. In the year of 1987, thanks to Bill Cosby and NBC “A Different World” aired its first episode in the month of September and the purview of Black Higher Education was forever changed. However, this changed only lasted for the time the show remained on the air. Hence, part of any solution that seeks to restore the HBCU to its prominence and reach must include a return of everyone’s HBCU Hillman College.

The “Black” entertainment channel known as BET has recently produced a show by the name of “The Quad”. I, like many others I assume, were caught in a rush of hope and anticipation of a show that would provide a stage to showcase the HBCU. BET had other plans and Black America was let down yet again, but this time, those who were letting us down looked just like us. We need to remember the call of Steve Biko and the urgent necessity of Black Consciousness. Skin color does not determine authentic membership in Black America, rather it is a Black mind coupled with Black thoughts of Black unity, love, and liberation that mark of a true member of Black America. Therefore, we should not be surprised that BET let down Black America. I learned a long time ago that BET does not care to represent the interests of Black America, but it hurts all the same.

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The Quad is merely a show that takes place on a campus of an HBCU. Its placement on an HBCU campus is only a novelty to writers and producers I presume. “A Different World” is the only silver lining for those looking to view their campuses on television through Hillman College. But yesterday is behind us and a revision of the mammoth series is needed. There is a new generation of Black students who need to be shown their institutions of Higher Education. We cannot take it for granted that everyone knows of the HBCU or what it has to offer. Too many do not understand or choose not to acknowledge the reasons why HBCUs are the way they are. The HBCU story needs to be told to a new generation.

From 1986 through 1993 enrollment at HBCUs increased by 59,000 students across the board, which translated into an increase in revenue to the tune of 381 million dollars. Today the number of students at HBCUs is only 294,000, while 2.7 million black students attend predominantly white institutions. This is important because, with the average cost of college at $21,700, those same Black students send 6 billion dollars to HBCUs, and Black students at predominantly white institutions send 58 billion dollars to those schools.

We can talk about Black unity, but the time is now, not tomorrow to act. Why ? Because, unity is made possible through action.Every Black student at a predominantly white institutions is another $21,000 to a history, lineage of people and orthodox that is pernicious to the HBCU. Returning “A Different World” to the airwaves will only do so much, but Black America must extend every effort not only to keep up, but move ahead of mainstream America. Further, I believe the first step is to denounce “The Quad” as a farce and advocate for a show in the likeness of “A Different World”. We all have decisions to make. What will you do?

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