In March 2017, Howard University will observe its 150th anniversary and there will be much to celebrate. On Thursday, Dec. 1, Howard University’s contribution and teachings of the African diaspora were reflected upon current and former students, and faculty alike shared their connections and praised the engagement the Mecca has made with the African world.
The program opened with its first segment entitled, “Looking Back and Ahead
Celebrations, reflections and intergenerational conversations with alumni, students, artists and the youth.” Graduate student Kamau Grimes and 2014 graduate Dr. Sussie Okoro, shared presentations detailing how their experiences in and around Howard University have increased their appreciation and pride for their African culture.
“I graduated two years ago from the African American studies department, two years ago and I benefited so much from the department that when [I was emailed] to come out and share [my] experiences of the journey that we went through as students at Howard University and what we experienced, I jumped into it, because I know without Howard University much of what I am today, would not be possible,” said Okoro as she began her presentation, entitled “Looking Back With Pride, Optimistic For The Future.”
Following the student and alumni testimonials, the second part of the program included a panel called, “A Legacy of Teaching, Scholarship and Public Service,” was a discussion with scholars and leaders from the academic and research communities. Each panelist expressed the importance that Howard University has placed on African heritage in different departments of the school.
Lanisia Kitchiner noted that her fellow panelists were responsible for helping her raise her own consciousness relating to Africa during the duration of her time at Howard. “There is no equivalent in terms of higher education, there is no parallel to the faculty, the spirit, the sense of community, the sense of can do, and the sense of love the faculty gave to this little freshman like me,” said Kitchener.
Panelists included, Kitchiner, Provost Anthony K. Wutoh, Dean Bernard A. Mair, Bereket H. Selassie, Lorenzo Morris, Greg Carr, Michael Frazier, Helen Bond and Zachary Johnson.
Each panelist brought up notable faculty, alumni and even visitors such as Alain Locke, Ralph Bunche, and Langston Hughes who looked to Howard as one of the places where the African narrative was authentic and upheld.
At the end, spectators were able to share their own experiences and ask questions. One Howard student raised the question, “Do you think that the undergraduate students
now can carry the same legacy?”
“You never know when an event or movement may happen that will challenge somebody to think outside of the [mainstream],” said Johnson. “I wouldn’t write off young people at all.”
Howard student Carlie Whitaker was among the current students moved by the day. “I appreciate Howard every day for it’s history, but it truly made me appreciate the strength of that history.”
By the end of the event, all panelists agreed that Howard University had accomplished and preserved much of its African past and present connection over the last 150 years, but there was much more to be uncovered by future generations.