Over the past 10 to 15 years, the news that the neighborhood surrounding my Alma Mater, Howard University in Washington, DC was “changing” to a more affluent one was never surprising to me because the EXACT same thing has been happening in my hometown of New Orleans. Both cities are plagued with gentrification. It’s hurtful, but I am dealing with it.
However, when I read that Howard’s Yard has become a site for dog walking and yoga classes for local residents, I. FLIPPED. OUT. And to add insult to injury, when a colonizer, excuse me, local resident, Sean Grubbs-Robishaw, a 30-something-looking, bearded white male, and a self-proclaimed neighbor to Howard for over 15 years stated that our campus should move, well I flat out lost it! The first thing that came to mind: does this guy know ANYTHING about Howard? Our rich history? Our ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-TWO YEARS of residence in that community? What, he’s lived there 5 minutes compared to us? This guy CANNOT be serious! Does he even know the EXCELLENCE that has come from our campus over the last ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY TWO YEARS? It’s so many people: Allain Locke, Toni Morrison, Thurgood Marshall, Debbie Allen, Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, and countless others.
The second thing that came to mind: These gentrifiers are doing WHAT on our Yard? (Yes, it’s capitalized for a reason) The Yard at Howard, like many other Historically Black Colleges and Universities is a sacred place. It is where we all headed on Fridays (in the late nineties, especially the first warm Friday in Spring) to meet up with our friends from different dorms, parts of campus, and majors to just hang out. We all looked forward to it. Even if you were a nerd, like me, that was stuck in the Valley for most of the time, you headed to the Yard to people watch. This is where the probate shows took place. You had to be there to see your homegirl or homeboy FINALLY cross the burning sands. It was a MUST.
Why are you people doing yoga in our sacred spaces? I get that Howard has always opened its arms to its surrounding community but we are a PRIVATE university, lines have to be drawn. Doesn’t DC’s district 1, with all of its affluence, have plenty of green space for Becky and ‘em to do yoga and play fetch? Of course they do! So, with that being said, Dear White People: GET OFF MY LAWN!!
A Howard Alumna