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As we continue to recognize African-Americans’ contributions to society throughout Black History Month, we have to shine a light on the spaces that we’ve always been allowed to show up in authentically as our true selves.

With more than 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the country, these college campuses and their unparalleled experience are a point of great pride for the culture.

The Urban One Honors never disappoints when it comes to celebrating Black Excellence, and this year was no different! From honoring living legends in music – to shining a light on current students, the #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackBoyJoy was on full display at the fourth annual awards show.

This year, the Urban One Honors Fan Zone, presented by McCormick, celebrated HBCUs across the country. But, a lucky group of teens from the campuses in Atlanta were tapped to present. Our team at TV One and CLEO TV caught up with those students, and we’re shouting them out!

Keep reading to learn more about how they #Represent247 on their journeys at Spelman College, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University.


Kennedy Smith

This graduating Senior at Clark Atlanta University is a music major with a double concentration in piano studies and commercial composition, which is like studio production. Upon graduation, she hopes to take her talents on the road and tour with other artists, play in bands and write and produce for other people. Check her out on Instagram!

Q&A:

Why was attending an HBCU important to you? And what do you want people to know about the HBCU experience that they may not know?

“Just to be connected with my people. Like my sister, she’s four years older than me and she went to North Carolina A&T. When she came back that first semester, she was just like a changed person and I just loved how “power to the people” she was and she was just so proud of her school and being around her people. And I was like I need to experience that because I didn’t get that at high school and middle school, most of the time, I was the only Black kid. So, it was really important to me that I go to an HBCU, so I could connect with my own and just feel like I belong somewhere. The big takeaway is you’re not going to get this experience anywhere else. I mean when when you graduate, obviously Atlanta has plenty of Black people, but it’s not gonna be the same as being in these this close community – people that are trying to get their education just like you, people who look like you. You’re not gonna get that kind of shared experience anywhere else.”

Why do you think representation of Black people and HBCUs in mainstream media is so important?

“There’s so many different kinds of people around the world that we don’t necessarily get to see all the time. So, I think it was really awesome to show everything that’s going on right now. I think it’s super important to show Black people in a positive light. The entire Urban One Honors was great for that, especially showing young Black kids who are making a positive impact and making a change in their life, wanting to go to school and showing that it is possible.”

What does The Soundtrack of Black America mean to you?

“To me honestly, the first thing that comes to mind is empowerment. The Soundtrack of Black America is our soundtrack, and you know, I think that it’s really important for us as African Americans to embrace the art that we put out, the creativity that we possess because we have so much. It’s just an empowerment thing. You know, I personally feel really good about the things that I create and being able to represent myself and our community in a positive light. So it’s just our culture and you don’t get that anywhere else.”

What song would definitely be in your Soundtrack?

“Remember the Time by Michael Jackson. It’s for the culture that’s all, like it was just a great time in Black America, the 90s. It was just like a time to be alive and I just feel like everybody was doing music videos that were off the chain. And it just makes sense, like everybody knows that song, there’s no way you can’t know it. I put that on the soundtrack ’cause it’s just so classic.”

“I wanna be well traveled, I wanna be a well-known producer with my own label and and just really kind of be the change in the music industry. Because it’s such a ruthless business, I really want to try and make it better for artists that are coming up, so we don’t get keep seeing people get caught up in these terrible record deals and basically selling their souls and all of their intellectual property. I want to be part of that movement in having the music industry be more beneficial to the artists rather than you know the big people at the top.”

What legacy would you like to leave behind?

Jacobi and Jasper Mitchell

These twin brothers from Chicago are freshmen at Morehouse College, majoring in sociology and marketing respectively. Both students also study music as a minor, and perform as their own R&B/Neo-Soul singing group: Twinsoundz. Click here to check them out on Instagram and support!

Q&A:

What made you both choose Morehouse?

“I think the main things that made us choose Morehouse were not only the rich legacy, but also it was just us looking at a picturesque Black Excellence all the time. Especially seeing Black men in such a good light. We were feeling like we were already Morehouse men going in, so it felt like the perfect fit for us. So, I just think being able to have people that remind you of what you can be because if you can see something, that also helps to be it. And not to mention, Morehouse is in the center of Black Hollywood. So, we saw that and we knew this is just the spot where dreams come true. We didn’t want to miss that opportunity.”

Why was attending an HBCU important to you? And what do you want people to know about the HBCU experience that they may not know?

“The rich legacy, the amazing group of people that you’re going to find. There’s no other spot for support like this. There isn’t another spot for resources that HBCUs will give you because you’re surrounded by these people who look like you and they’re all doing the same things that you want to do. If you wanna go to a place that has an unbelievable amount of support, go to an HBCU. Plus the family aspect of it all! Being at an HBCU just shows us how many people actually care about us at our home away from home.”

How did it feel to present at the Urban One Honors?

“It was definitely amazing experience. It still feels like it didn’t even happen. But we also feel just so much gratitude, many emotions, so much gratitude. Because all these unseen forces,you know God is just organizing things beyond our comprehension just behind the scenes. So yeah, we’re just grateful for that, for sure.”

Why do you think representation of Black people and HBCUs in mainstream media is so important?

“There’s nothing better than feeling like you see yourself on TV. If you can see it, you can be it. You can make everything so much more possible in your mind, in your imagination and it just shows that you have a place in this society. Because so often, we as Black people specifically, it does not feel like we can belong. But, when you have just space on TV, sometimes it just shows like man, this is all worth something . My kid can see this person and be like ‘man I wanna be on TV, man I wanna have superpowers.’ But, it’s just so beautiful when somebody can just look into the eyes of a screen and be like ‘wow, that’s me.’ That’s so powerful.”

What does The Soundtrack of Black America mean to you?

“Black people, we are them! I don’t even know how to explain it better. Black music is not only some of the most soulful, some of the most amazing, most powerful music ever, but it shows our struggle. It shows our environment. It shows every single aspect of who we are and we are some amazing people. Everyone can relate to someone getting knocked down and getting back up, and I think that’s one of the main things we’ve shown over the years.”

What song would definitely be in your Soundtrack?

“Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder and What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye.”

Kerrington Griffin

This sophomore, music major at Spelman College loves all things musical theater. The Baton Rouge, LA native, who also dances and acts, has dreams of performing on a Broadway stage. Check her out on Instagram!

Q&A:

What do you want people to know about the HBCU experience that they may not know?

“I’ve gotten the short end of the stick when I graduated [high school], my freshman year was virtual, so we had to cross that barrier of getting to know what the on campus vibe in life is. But, it’s a great feeling to be around people who look like you, who have gone through the same experiences. It’s a racially pivoting moment in our lives that made me realize that in order to push forward with my journey, I would like to be surrounded around people who understand and not necessarily be explaining every minute of the day. So being here and fast forwarding to my fall semester for sophomore year and being able to be on campus, I realized that it was the same energy through the screen.”

What do you hope to do after graduating from Spelman?
“I hope to be on Broadway and I hope to use my training and theater music and in dance to propel me further and then after Broadway and on stage performance, I’d like to dabble in a little bit of film but also teach what I know and give back to the community.”
Why do you think representation of Black people and HBCUs in mainstream media is so important?
“I believe major media, for lack of a better terms, is whitewashed. Black people, Black students, Black creators aren’t seen as much as our white counterparts, and as much as that sucks, HBCUs really give us the opportunity to put us at the forefront. And of course it helps to have our VP in there representing and giving us those opportunities. But, it’s just so important for Black students in general and HBCU graduates to really put our put a name to our face because we’re usually in the background, we usually end credits. But we let the younger generation know that there are spaces for us, there are opportunities in the big in the big corporations and on the TV screen.”
What does The Soundtrack of Black America mean to you? And what song would definitely be in your Soundtrack?
“OK, Soundtrack of Black America. That phrase means vibrancy, it means authenticity, it means confidence and representation because all music comes from Black music. The drums like the gym bag in Africa, like if you route it back to the start, it comes from us. So, it means all of those things are more in a song that would be on my playlist. My song would have to be Someday We’ll All Be Free by Donny Hathaway. It’s just standing tall in your truth, standing tall in your artistic ability, really moving forward and being a representation for those coming behind you.”
What legacy would you like to leave behind?
“I would love to leave the statement that it is okay to be diverse inn artistic platforms or you can be influential across the board. Growing up, I was told I need to stick to one thing or I need to hop out of the arts because it won’t give me the satisfaction or the life that I choose to live. But, I didn’t want to just stick to dance or just to music or just a theater, I wanted to combine all three and there is a way. And there’s also a way to keep academia in the picture. So really, I would like to break the stigma that we all have to be a one-stop-shop. We can be great in many different things and we get shine in all areas of the world.”

We love to see young people take their places in the world and have no doubts that this group of HBCU students will go on to be future change-makers!

Click here to see a full list of HBCUs across the country.

Are you a proud HBCU grad? Rep your college or university down below!

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