January 12, 2021 |
Majoring in political science at Howard University, Peter Lubembela was proud that Kamala Harris, a graduate of his "Bison community," won the vice presidency. He described fellow Howard University students rushing to campus after hearing the news.
Originally from Tanzania and "coming from a refugee camp, seeing the daughter of two immigrants fighting to become the first female vice president of the United States of America is powerful," he said. "… I've been marginalized for most of my American experience, so it's just inspiring to see how a black woman really fights for immigrants and for her community."
Lubembela spoke to a virtual panel of Howard University scientists and leaders on Tuesday, reflecting collectively on the role of HBCU's in today's political moment, in light of the second Senate election in Georgia, a US Capitol breach by supporters of President Donald Trump and the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
"The role of Howard and HBCU's in particular has never been more critical in my opinion," said Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, President of Howard University. “The truth is under attack in our country and it is our clear duty to uplift it and propose solutions to correct the problems that reveal that very truth. HBCU & # 39; s have always been at the forefront of holding America to account and insisting that we do better as a nation. "
Like Lubembela, Howard University's faculty emphasized the symbolism of Harris's victory.
It is "a resurgence of the consciousness" that "black women, women of color, have played a very important role, starting from the home to the community level and into global space," said Dr. J. Jarpa Dawuni, associate professor of political science and director of the Center for Women, Gender and Global Leadership at Howard University. "When we talk about black women, women of color, we are talking about the principles of matriarchy, the experiences and power and control that women have in the communities where they live."
Scientists also stressed that people who are affiliated with HBCUs taking on leadership roles is hardly new.
Dr. Gregory Carr, president of Howard University's African American Studies, pointed out a & # 39; steady flow & # 39; of HBCU graduates and educators who later became famous political thinkers and elected officials, including Nobel laureate Dr. Ralph Bunche and Dr. Doxey Wilkerson, leader of the Communist Party, both former instructors at Howard.
He described Harris as a product of her Howard University education and noted that she attended the school at a time that coincided with & # 39; the emerging idea of black center-left electoral politics & # 39; which she has come to represent. Meanwhile, she was a junior at Howard when the university first instituted a compulsory African American studies course for undergraduates.
“There is nothing more important, it seems to me, in terms of the concept of the black university … than to invite people from all over the world and from different backgrounds into a space where we view the nature of human possibilities through lenses that tie in with that deep tradition, & # 39; said Carr.
In addition to focusing on Harris's HBCU past, the panel grappled with the implications of the Trump supporters' attack on the US Capitol, as well as the country's nationwide settlement of racism this year.
“I think part of the problem we have is that we don't recognize humanity in each other, so it makes it easier to slander people, it makes it easier to accept misinformation, it makes it easier not to Fight that justice … That equality … "said Dr. Keneshia Grant, an associate professor of political science at Howard University. Black people" try to convince other people that we are human as long as we are in this country. But it is the job of people who are not black to try to have conversations about our blackness in their communities until they accept us as such. "
Against this backdrop, Jennifer Thomas, associate professor at Cathy Hughes School of Communications and former CNN executive producer, stressed the importance of diverse journalists and their outsized role in telling the stories of communities of color.
Frederick assured that, ahead of the presidential inauguration on January 20 – when more protests to Washington, D.C., are expected, Howard & # 39; s campus will take appropriate security measures.
At one point, the school also plans to ring the chapel 49 times to celebrate Harris's official election as the country's 49th vice president.
Kamala Harris was an entry-level speaker in 2017 who had the guts to run for president and now serves as vice president of the United States after just three years in the Senate, Lubembela said. “Looking back, as a first-generation low-income immigrant from Montbello, Denver through a Tanzania refugee camp with the surname Lubembela, who couldn't afford the $ 300 deposit for Howard University, I thank God for giving me the guts to to pursue a higher education. "
Sara Weissman can be reached at [email protected]