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6. Howard ‘Nalia

While there is a wide variety of fashion that can be witnessed on the Yard of Howard University, there is one fashion trend loved by Bison that can be seen from campus to Cairo- and that is Howard ‘Nalia. Sweatshirts, hoodies, baby tees, baseball caps, backpacks, basketball shorts…. you name it and the bookstore will slap a brand on it. However, far from just a fashion trend, for many Bison, the purpose of Howard ‘Nalia is manifold.

  • For one, it lets white people know they went to college. This is a good thing, because for some reason, college-educated isn’t the first adjective to cross a white person’s mind when they walk past a black person on a deserted street at 4 in the morning. In this case, Howard ‘Nalia may stop them from prematurely calling 911.
  • Secondly, it lets non-college-educated black people know that there are people that look like them in higher education. In this case, it may inspire someone to move forward.
  • Third, it allows other HBCU students and alum to recognize you among their ranks. This may result in a wink, a handshake, or maybe even a valuable connection. And  connections are prized by all Bison from campus to Cairo.

Precaution: Do not point out to Average Bison wearing Howard ‘Nalia in the PunchOut that their affiliation with Howard University is self-explanatory by sheer virtue of them being on campus. Clearly it was laundry day.

5. Fashion

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Fashion is to Howard is like:

a) Ying is to yang- one without the other leaves the entire thing unbalanced

b) Bread is to butter- commonly associated together but each serve other purposes outside of their relationship

c) Hormone injections are to pre-op transvestites- A definite necessity in order to keep up appearances

If you guessed A or B, you might be a Bison.

 Contrary to the belief of the Average Bison strutting across the yard in True Religion jeans and a D&G hoodie, the Fashion World does not give a damn about Howard University… yes, even in spite of being chosen as the second most fashionable university by Women’s Wear Daily 5 years ago.

However, this reality does not deter Average Bison from spending their entire refund check at Tyson’s Corner. Ask Average Bison to name 3 Haute Couture designers, and they will rattle of names of at least 5 designers faster than tickets to Fashion Show II sell out during Homecoming. Then ask Average Bison to 3 heads of state. Watch the confusion expression develop on their face. Change the discussion back to fashion. Watch them smile.

Precaution:Don’t even think of pointing out to Average Bison that the yard is not a runway, and that most wealthy collegians at schools such as Dartmouth and UVA wear pajamas to class. They will merely turn on their Giuseppe Zanotti heels and sashay to the PunchOut.

4. Moving to New York After Graduation

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There comes a time in every Bison’s life-usually after 4 to 6 years– when it comes time to leave the Mecca and venture out to the Real World. In the case of the Average Bison, the Real World is a 1 mile radius in the upper reaches of the island of Manhattan, also known as Harlem.

No Job, No Plans, No Problem. Chances are, Average Bison will know 40% of any given apartment complex north of 125th St. That means hundreds upon hundreds of couches to sleep on until they find that ideal post-graduation position working in retail, restaurants, nightlife or hospitality.  Granted, waitressing has nothing to do with Average Bison’s degree, nor will it help them pay off those pesky student loans. However, it serves as a segue to their ultimate career goal: becoming a New Yorker.

Precaution: Do not remind Average Bison that they have no intention of building a real life i.e. a family in New York. They will only roll their eyes and think that you’re a loser for not understanding that Harlem is a temporary playground for the young black and fabulous… kinda like Atlanta, but with less men living on the DL.

3. Connections

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For every person that you may know at a Historically Black College or University, the Average Bison knows 20.

You know someone who graduated from Morehouse in 2004? Well that Bison sitting on the steps of Fine Arts knows him, his roommate, his roommate’s entire Kappa line, their dean, and their dean’s twin brothers who graduated summa cum laude 5 years earlier and now work for Credit Suisse.

Your sister went Spelman’s homecoming last year? Well that Bison waiting for the Meridian shuttle in front of Architecture knows the Homecoming chair, her 3 assistants, participated in a debutante ball with the Homecoming Queen, and actually designed the poster for the Homecoming Fashion Show as a favor for their second cousin, a fashion show sponsor who graduated from Spelman in 99.

That’s right! When it comes to black colleges, 6 degrees of separation is more like 1, and everyone knows someone who knows everyone else!

However, in regards to non-HBCU students, it’s either those who attend Ivy League institutions*, and those poor lost black souls that attend schools with too many letters in their acronym like IUPUI or CSUSB. 

The former is a valuable connection, because, among other reasons, having many friends who attend an Ivy League implies that they only hang out with smarties, and that they probably could have gotten into said Ivy had they not come to Howard for the “black experience”.

The latter is a laughing stock. Hahahaha. All together now.  

Precaution: Do not ask Average Bison to rattle off the names of friends at Ivy League institutions as it will merit 1 of 2 responses:

1. A long list of friends who inevitably would never rush to rattle off a list of HBCU buddies, along with a reassurance that one could have attended such school, but they want “the black experience”

or

2. a speech about how Howard is the Black Harvard, and that SpelHouse (Spelman/Morehouse for the slow) rounds out the triumvirate also known as the Black Ivies.

*For argument’s sake we’ll extend today’s definition of Ivy League to schools such as Wesleyan, Georgetown, and any school with a really great basketball team.

2. Anti-‘A-Building’ Sentiments

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If you ever want to bond with a Bison, talk about how much you hate the A-building.

Tell them about the time they mishandled your scholarship paperwork and caused you to have a pay out of pocket.

Shake your head about the spring semester transcript crunch of 2006 that almost caused you not to make line.

Rant about ridiculous office hours such as “10:30-11:15 Mondays Only”.

Then lastly reminisce about the Great A-building Takeover that occurred when they were still young enough to be watching Reading Rainbow. Nod in agreement when they say that they’d gladly participate in one this year, knowing all the while that they would only participate if it were co-sponsored by at least 5 campus organizations, including 1 or more in the Divine-9.  

Precaution: Do not remind them that everything at Howard is a known process, otherwise they will become irate and believe that you do not sympathize with their inability to extricate themselves from the PunchOut for the week’s worth of face-time necessary to build alliances and connections in all the important A-building offices.

Also, do not remind them that “It’s not What You Know, but Who You Know” because they will feel that you’re questioning their Connections Quota and will immediately begin to list all the “important” Howard administrators whose names they can recall such as Matt Goins, Dean Guillory and Dr. Chambers…. not realizing that they all work in Student Activities and not the A-building.

#1 A Process

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It has been said that everything at Howard University involves a process, whether it be physical, mental, emotional or financial.

In fact, many a Bison will profess that this “haze” begins way before actually setting foot on Howard’s campus, way back when they were a senior in high school trying to make their way to the Mecca. Whether the A-building lost their financial aid paperwork, or their housing deposit was miraculously cashed but “never received”, there is always some inkling that one’s matriculation through Howard University isn’t going to be the proverbial walk in the park.

Therefore it is known from day one that the strenuous progression from new entrant to alum (!!!) is marked by various forms of a process; however, many Howard processes are not only optional, but are actively sought out by members of the student body.

Whether they jump right in by going out for Campus Pals, Student Ambassadors, a choir, or even the football team, they can look forward to experiencing some kind of process that has been fine-tuned by many many generations of process-loving Bison.

 Precaution: Do not, under any circumstances, introduce the possibility that many of these organizations that they are “pledging” have very little bearing on the real world outside of the relationships that they build with fellow members.

Secondly, do not mention that everything in life is a process, from buying a home to eventually raising a family. This will make the Average Bison feel as if you do not sympathize with their struggle…. and a struggle is something that every Bison holds true to their little red white and blue heart.