How I chased the Hillman dream to an HBCU

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by Janelle Harris
The Root

Clutch magazine’s Janelle Harris admits that she never had any intention of going to a school that didn’t remind her of “A Different World.”

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CAST OF “A DIFFERENT WORLD”

Twenty-five years—that’s how long it’s been since the first episode of “A Different World” aired on NBC. The Internet’s been standardized, the skyscraper bang has been beaten into obscurity and stars have blazed across the fickle stage of celebrity and fizzled, remembered only through the randomness of reality shows and VH1’s “I Love the ’90s.” But after 25 years, “A Different World” is still relevant, not only because TV One so graciously continues to breathe life into its syndicated reruns, but because it was the only show to paint a realistic picture, for an entire generation of kids, of what life is like on a Black campus. Many of them were the first in their families to even have a shot at going to college and some went on to serve their four years in the hallowed halls of higher education. I was one of them.

By the time my predominantly White high school years thankfully, finally, heaved their last few breaths, I was all set to enroll at Lincoln University, the first HBCU in the country and not completely unlike that fictional—but very realistic—Huxtable alma mater.

That was the stuff they didn’t show you on “A Different World,” but I’m thankful for it. I look at folks crumbling at life’s little inconveniences and chuckle because I, like a lot of HBCU grads, have been fire baptized on the frontlines of the Black college experience. It makes you both book and street smart, even if your closest street is a dirt road.

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