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  • My Degree Is Black

Monique Jobe | Tenn. State | '05

Welcome to the MDIB Yard Monique Jobe!

Reppin': Tennesee State University

Grad: 2005

Major: Computer Science

Occupation: Systems Engineer

Can you briefly walk us through your HBCU story? How it started, how you got there, and how it helped you get to where you are today.

My HBCU story began with visits to TSU with Alumni relatives for homecoming parades, battle of the bands, football games, and community events. I was born in Nashville and grew up in Lebanon about 45 mins away. I have several relatives who attended TSU and being so close we made a lot of visits to the campus.

In high school, I played sax in the marching band and ran track hoping to get scholarships for college. When it came time to choose a college, I only applied to TSU because it was the only school I wanted to attend. Awesome band, women's track program, and engineering program -- I THOUGHT I was going to be able to juggle all three in college but I was wrong...LOL! In the end, I switched my major to Computer Science and that was one of the best decisions leading to where I am today.

How did your HBCU shape you and impact your understanding of Black Culture?

Growing up in Lebanon from 3rd to 8th grade I was in the minority at school. My understanding of black culture began at home with my mom, a TSU Alumni who understood the importance of representation. My mom made sure I had black dolls, books with black characters, and black culture activities such as with the local NAACP Youth and College division. When I became a student at TSU the knowledge of self and desire to learn more didn't stop. I intentionally enrolled in Black Arts and Lit, African Studies, and History classes taught with a focus on how they related to people of color. It was so refreshing to study Alice Walker and Claude McKay instead of Hemingway and Shakespeare.

I became a member of the student organization Love You Like a Sister (LYLAS, Inc) and Epsilon Gamma Iota Engineering Fraternity. With both of these predominately black organizations, we participated in community service activities within Nashville's Black community, planned events for students, and had more bonding events leading to lifelong friendships that I can remember.

The best football games were against other HBCUs such as the Atlanta Classic versus FAMU. It was an event that started weeks ahead with deciding what to wear because we gotta be all the way together! The road trip with friends produced their own memories. The weekend of the event excited supporters from both schools talking about how our team and band were superior to our opponents. Step shows, Impromptu Car shows, tailgating, football games, half-time shows and after parties. Folks just getting together to celebrate life and have a good time.

Even the community would get involved -- Tom Joyner would bring his Sky Show to HBCUs including TSU and have people of various generations out together early in the morning to clown and enjoy the event. The TSU campus also hosted events open to the entire community such as the African Street Fair, Music concerts and Church Services. Various Black Culture influences and events begin with my TSU Alumni relatives.

Before we go any further, let's have a brag session! Tell us about your HBCU(s). What are y'all known for? What are the most exciting things about the yard?

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is the largest of 4 HBCUs in Nashville. TSU is home to the Grammy-nominated Aristocrat of Bands. Famous Alumni include Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Catana Starks (first female head coach of an NCAA Division I men's golf team), NBA player Robert Covington, NFL great Ed "Too Tall" Jones, and Olympic track star Wilma Rudolph. If you have ever had the chance to attend, you understand exactly why TSU has one of the top-ranked HBCU Homecoming weekends on the planet. Homecoming is a seven-day long extremely lit event that spreads all over the city. TSU is a vibe. It is an experience. It is black culture and black excellence wrapped up in one package that is still seen in current students as well as Alumni.

One of my favorite things about the yard was how TSU was the place to be -- I loved the African Street Fair held on campus with all the crafts, art, music, black soap, and shea butter. Just hanging out in the courtyard listening to the DJ play music and clowning with friends was a regular Wednesday event. I loved the randomness that occurred such as BET's "Hits from the Street" popping up on campus to film new episodes. Watching the Crats march from the band room to Da Hole for practice and hearing the sounds echo all over campus. I loved how when I was a student there the campus was so inviting and included the Nashville community. The Yard would expand all the way down Jefferson Street for the Jazz and Blue fest held in the middle of the street blocked off the traffic. With Nashville being nicknamed Music City thanks to Fisk University, there was always some type of musical magic happening.

What do you say to people who believe HBCUs are not as good as Predominantly White Institutions (PWI)?

Boy Bye! What are you considering great? This makes me laugh considering how much this country has allowed happening to destroy, underfund, diminish the contributions, and in some cases overlook HBCUs since the beginning. Most of the time this convo comes up we are discussing sports facilities and housing. HBCUs have to be twice as good to get half of what PWI have. Provide more HBCUs with the same opportunities that have been available to PWI for generations then ask me again.


Tell us what you wish everyone in the world knew about the HBCU experience.

Being a person of color, attending an HBCU is one of the few times you may ever experience being in a majority environment with so many like-minded individuals from such diverse backgrounds. My HBCU experience also included the people of the community and black students from the other five nearby universities. This article was my attempt to share some of the magic I experienced but this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to the HBCU experience that includes the food in the cafe (Catfish Friday), the vibrant personalities of the staff (blue hair weave and long colorful fingernails were acceptable), and the vibe of the campus itself.

Tell us about your most memorable HBCU experiences. (Yes we in yo business, tell us about all of 'em!)

I remember being younger with my family sitting in the cold at the homecoming parade waiting to see the local celebs and the Aristocrat of Bands march down Jefferson Street to Hale stadium called "Da Hole" for the Battle of the Bands. I remember standing in long lines to get a fried whiting fish sandwich with mustard, onions, hot sauce, and pickles because that's how we eat fish sandwiches in Nashville. Being in the city, it was a community event that brought out people from all over the city including the locals.

While in High school, I would visit my cousin who was a student, and spend the night in the freshman female dorm known as "The Zoo". I also attended home football games in "Da Hole" and traveled on the TSU Student Pep Club bus to attend away football games. When I became a student I was already familiar with some things that made fitting in freshman year very easy.

During freshman year, I lived in "The Zoo" and it was just wild. Being beside Hale Stadium/Da Hole, students and locals would park their cars in the student parking Turing it into a mini block party. I remember having floor parties in the dorm, where we would all have our radios on the same station, prop open the doors, and dance in hallways in our pj's. There was also a panty raid from the freshman boy's dorm. Hadley Park was within walking distance from the campus and as far back as I can remember it was the place to be on the weekend, especially Sunday afternoon.

I remember also as students on a budget having one textbook for class and students all getting together to do homework as a group so we could all share the book, help each other with work, and study for our test. My HBCU experience is filled with memories of students working as a group to make sure we all graduated.

Was it like Hillman on "A Different World"?

I definitely had "A Different World" moments at TSU. Classes with Black Professors teaching American History from the black perspective. English Literature studying the Harlem Renaissance and other literature work by Black Americans. Egyptian hieroglyphs in Africana Studies class or comparing Malcolm and Martin for deeper understanding and speech reenactments.

Learning to play dominoes the Midwest Way or spades vs how we play in the Nashville area. Wednesday folks dressed up to be seen on the catwalk or at an unofficial yard show in the Courtyard. Black Celebs visiting for speaking engagements or walking around campus chatting with students. Alumni coming back for Homecoming, like the unofficial Family Reunion that it is, and dropping things off to students. It was a black majority world experience that I am truly grateful I was able to experience.

As any alumni will tell you, HBCUs are nuturing enviroments. What person(s) during your HBCU experience deserves some flowers and recognition?

I remember on several occasions hearing Dept Head Gamshad tell students who were not doing well in his class how they would not graduate. When I was struggling in his programming class, I decided to ask my Dept Head Professor for help. Initially, he told me "Ms. Jobe I am too busy and I have a meeting to attend." I replied, "Well, I will be here when you get out of your meeting because I need help and who else is going to help me?" Gamshad was notorious for extending class past 11:50am because he wasn't done teaching the lesson for the day. Monday and Friday were no problem but on Wednesday I was out the door at 11:51am. The first time I left, I recall Gamshad telling me "Ms. Jobe I am not done" and I informed him he would need to tell me, next class, what else he wanted me to know bc Bible Study started at Noon and I had a ten-minute drive. The semester I was participating in membership intake for my engineering fraternity, I dropped his class bc it was "too much" with my job and the physics class that I wasn't easily able to take another semester. Gamshad still told me whether enrolled or not, I was still required to attend his class, submit all work and take his test -- and I did. I retook his class the following semester and passes. I never heard him tell me once I would not graduate and he did his part to ensure that I did.

How are you using what you learned from them in your everyday life?

TSU was underfunded (like most schools and several HBCUs). I learned how to use the resources available to make things happen. I learned we can get through life and challenges together. Everyone has a part to play and something to contribute. Being resourceful out of necessity is a lesson I still use to this very day. I also learned not to be afraid to stand up for the things worth the fight.

Thank you for showing us Your Yard and telling us Your Experience. Before you go, tell us, what do you imagine for the future of HBCUs?

I imagine the enrollment at HBCUs will increase with non-black students. The funding of HBCUs will also increase due to historical disenfranchisement being revealed and more donations from supporters. Campus housing, sports facilities, and general public awareness will improve.

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