As a graduate of Spelman College, I know that your daughter will be fine, more than fine. Zahara is entering a new kind of family, a new environment, and will emerge with a new mindset. She may even challenge your views when she comes home for the holidays and her behavior may be different. She may not even dress the same. Know that your daughter will not be the same woman you dropped off on move-in day in the sticky, summer Atlanta heat.
I remember my first day at Spelman, standing in the Oval in the middle of campus.
My parents gave me one last kiss and hug at the parting ceremony. Fathers were sobbing, mothers were clinging to their daughters–it was emotional. The speaker of the event begged the parents to “let their daughters go.” There were older Black women dressed in white playing drums lining us up and leading me and my sisters to our first orientation event in Sisters Chapel as Spelman students, leaving our loved ones behind.
Similar to Zahara, I came from an educational environment that did not teach me much about Blackness. Spelman College taught me and let me experience more than I could ever anticipate. Spelman became a home away from home. The students who walk that campus are similar but not the same. Zahara is one of many Black women at HBCUs—she will not be alone. People who attend come from all types of backgrounds: all-white schools and neighborhoods, adopted families, legacy families, interracial families, and a variety of others. However, at Spelman, everybody finds their group, their club, their safe space. Nobody is more important than another. Everybody is her sister. Sisters laugh, cry, and bicker, but it’s all with love.
Zahara’s historical education will be stretched. I remember one of the most challenging, mind-boggling but rewarding courses I took at the institution: African Diaspora & The World. In that class, I learned statistics and geography as well as some hard-hitting truths and eye-opening texts from Black scholars. I had some of the most dynamic discussions about race and gender. My English and film studies courses also analyzed most texts through a Black lens, which is something I wish all Black people could experience.
Your daughter is now attending the school of Black woman excellence. Spelman College has had some influential figures walk in and out of its gates, including: Alice Walker, Stacey Abrams, Keshia Knight Pulliam, and Bernice King. Although all Spelman students will not become celebrities or CEOs, we all gained valuable tools from the institution. These tools allow us to be the most outstanding people we can be, no matter what industries we enter after graduating.
I’m not saying it will all be easy. Between social injustices, world disasters, and individual struggles, I knew that I always had at least one sister I could Facetime between classes or run to the cafeteria and rant to. Spelman taught me patience, responsibility, how to navigate the world confidently as a Black woman, and how to bring more Black women into the spaces I’m in. One thing I learned about HBCUs is that they will push you to the brink in order to teach you a lesson. Being a student was HARD. There was a lot to endure but ultimately it builds character. We may have to work harder, but with the help of her sisters, she will make it through.
There’s something cathartic about going to a school where everybody knows the same songs, the same people, the same professors, and the same struggles. Walking around campus with fresh box braids that your sister helped you do in the dorms the night before is a beautiful thing to experience. Between Beyoncé dance classes, pageants, and Homecoming concerts, Zahara is going to experience something that could not happen at a predominantly-white institution. This is unique, this is special.
She will always be your daughter but now she’s also a Spelman sister. Now that you’ve given her that final kiss, hug, and last-minute pep talk, don’t be too sad. Know that Zahara is about to evolve into the woman she is meant to be. She will be nurtured, she will be challenged, and most of all, she will be loved.