I really thought I was in the twilight zone when I realized that on top of being broke by default, with no plan for paying my rent beyond month one, I was expected to pay for printing on campus, pay my way to present at conferences, pay to breathe HBCU air, and pay to die if I decided this was all too overwhelming.
And yet somehow this school full of my so-called brethren is completely okay with this.
I’ve always dreamed of pursuing graduate education at an HBCU, ever since my time at my PWI in undergrad started to drive me crazy. I spent my senior year of undergrad at an HBCU as part of a National Exchange program in order to escape the campus. I had my list of pros and cons made after that experience but I knew from then for sure that an HBCU for graduate school would be my goal… until it was time to find one that fit my interests and couldn’t find a Black Studies program nowhere. I continued at my undergraduate institution for my MA, for reasons including finances and familiarity. Skipping a dramatic series of events that was the PhD application process, I now find myself at an HBCU, one that is offering me the opportunity to study what I’ve been wanting to.
So here I was, moved everything to Atlanta, blew my last of a pot of savings to secure a place to live, broke as all fuck with no job and no prospects. Seriously, Macy’s out here wouldn’t hire me because the three days out of the week I had class wouldn’t allow me to have open availability for a 20hr/week position. Lastly, as you can imagine, I was miserable. I hated Atlanta in comparison to NYC, and all the hype stories I’d been told about this place proved not to be as accurate in real life. Moreover, I was too broke to try and enjoy it since there’s almost nothing to do that won’t cost you money. But I digress. I thought I’d experienced depression before, but I literally had seen nothing yet.
Yall. I worked at Sears for 2-3 weeks. I knew it was gonna be hella bad when that lady looked me in my face and said $8.50. Okay, so GA minimum wage hasn’t yet left the stone age, but I was still offended. The worse job I’ve had to date. Day 2 I was being pressured about my performance, and my store manager wasn’t impressed with seeing my copy of Still Brave at the register that I needed to have read by the time that shift was over.
I’m going to interject something really ridiculous here. Part of my misery was induced by the fact that I could no longer afford brunch. Yea, so I totally understand how boujee this makes me sound but you were warned by the title of this blog. I’m literally sitting in the land of black people who brunch at every opportunity and I couldn’t even join in on the festivities. There’s something about some good ole fried up chicken and red velvet waffles with 2 hours of mimosas that just rejuvenates the spirit. Yet here I was watching the pics from lit brunches on Instagram salivating and sober.
But to get back to the point of this: Something really gnawed at me about this whole experience. We, black students, were starving and penniless and no one seemed to care. I can tell you that I’m not the only one who has experienced this at this school. It seemed as if faculty and staff had gotten so used to “no we can’t help you” that they almost enjoyed it. You almost swore that was a smile on ole girl’s face when you expressed you were below the poverty line trying to pay rent, eat, and have a fuck left to give about what Patricia Hill Collins had to say about Black feminist frameworks.
Ultimately, this is a story about hurt. SURELY, my HBCU couldn’t really be wanting to see me fail. Surely, these people with PhDs could not seriously expect me to write a dissertation hungry, homeless, and crazy. It’s impossible that they knowingly allowed me to jump into a hell hole. In short, a lack of support is why I’m leaving this HBCU…
Part 2: “All the Blacks are men”