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  • My Degree Is Black

Shuntricia Addison| Tennessee State | '13

Welcome to the MDIB Yard Dr. Shuntricia Addison!

Reppin': Tennessee State University

Grad: 2013

Major: Sociology

Occupation: Esthetician Instructor and Entrepreneur

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.

I was a teen mother whose baby was special needs. She passed away on Mother's Day in 2006. I had a scholarship opportunity to march with the Aristocrat of Bands at TSU and applied for school shortly after she passed in hopes that it would help with the grief process. I went through a lot of changes, grieving her loss and my grandfather show passed that following month before father's day, an abusive relationship with my child's father, pledging, performing, etc. My experience helped me grow, learn, figure out where I fit and gain some lifelong friends. The power of connection and being in a safe space in the HBCU community despite the opposition showed me the power in us being resilient and operating in our genius and organic pride! I talked myself out of many things but reflecting back on my experiences, it has helped me in the classroom which is a role I never thought I would be doing, transitioning into my business and resuming my pursuit of med school while branding myself as an esthetician and educator that has inspired so many people!

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

I have always lived in my Black bubble in Birmingham. I always knew of racism but didn't experience much direct racism growing up until I got old enough to work after graduating high school and got a little culture shock when I was attending UAB walking from the hospital where my daughter lived most of her life to class. I never saw so many white people and other ethnicities in one spot before. This is where every other race hides in my mind! I had to leave UAB due to medical demands and some professors who were not understanding. When I attended TSU, I didn't feel like I had to fit in as much. There was still diversity, but I felt like I was back in my safe bubble of not being a minority in a community and having the battle of people understanding me, and microaggressions regarding my culture. I felt most human on an HBCU campus where we could bond and get to know each other regarding our ethnic and regional cultural differences. It showed how universal aspects of our culture are. Africans, Caribbean, Afro-Latin Americans, and Black from different regions of the country and various states, we all spoke differently, and we all had different customs but we could bond from seeing the overlap in our cultures, the spiritual swag, dance, music, etc. It is just so beautiful! We learned how to be better scholars and involved in the community through each other without extra distractions of racial microaggressions.

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?

Thee Tennessee State University! I marched in the band and played in the concert band and other music ensembles. Our band, The Aristocrat of Bands, was always known as one of the most musical bands but we are now known as the first and only 2x Grammy Award winning marching band. That is such an honor to say I grew up being part of that legacy! You can't mention the Olympics, especially track and field without ever mentioning TSU, you can't mention Wilma Rudolph, Oprah Winfrey, music, Greek life, etc. Our research program is one of the top programs in the country. We have a pretty awesome engineering department as well as agricultural department. We were the first to discover a planet outside of our solar system, we are part of the Freedom Riders' legacy, performing at the white house for President Barack Obama... On the yard, I know we had some exciting yard parties and social activities on Wednesdays. Being a band member that did not pledge a Black Greek organization, I was not part of the scene as much because I was tired from my studies, band obligations, and other organizations I served in such as Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity, and not knowing I had narcolepsy but battled it. I LOVED walking by and observing the fun!

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

As someone who has studied sociology and policies, I would ask them why they feel that way first. Second, I would use that as an opportunity to educate them on the reality of how black colleges and universities are the most underfunded, and the least supported by the governing boards, our Alumni donate but considering the marginalization of black people in the workforce, us being the least paid, plus our schools being withheld millions to billions of dollars for decades by these educational governing boards, we are doing an amazing job being amongst the most educated and most scholarly with the crumbs that are fed to us. You can be as good as you set yourself to be and as good with the resources available to you. If you don't feel an HBCU is as good and you didn't even attend an HBCU, you have no room to talk when you support the schools of privilege by giving them the tuition dollars to keep them thriving over an HBCU. Choose the school based on the program that suits you best, the community where you feel you can thrive the best, and check your bias during the process, especially when your bias is against your own community. If you don't attend an HBCU because you chose a program best for you that so happens to be at a PWI, fine, but don't diss my community and my high-value education.


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

It is my culture. It is a joy and a privilege, and especially an honor to have attended an HBCU. We are Historical! We have rich history. We are legacies of resilience and excellency. I felt home. I knew that what I learned was of exceptional value despite the world not treating us as such. I see evidence of this when I teach in a classroom with predominantly white women and I am sharing aspects of what I learned at an HBCU. I am not questioned, I am admired, and I am trusted because I know how to research, I know how to walk in my excellence and share my experience and wisdom. I learned how to be the educator that I didn't think I could be from my HBCU experience.

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

Most of my experience was dealing with me, being in the band, and Sigma Alpha Iota. All of the performances, practices, and fundraising events, there are so many of them!

Was it like Hillman on "A Different World"?

I don't think it was as much for me like the show, but I didn't have as much time to have such a dynamic social life. I had fun, but not with all of the drama. Lol

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

The band directors for sure! I would NOT have been able to attend TSU without my scholarship, especially knowing that it was waiting without an audition when my daughter passed away. I don't think they really know what impact that had on me. My fraternity sisters. I gained some of the best friends at the time by becoming a member of Sigma Alpha Iota as well as My Sister's Keeper which is a Christian-based organization. My professors, mainly my Spanish and Sociology professors were good to me! They really helped me be empowered, and motivated and they spoke life into me even at my difficult moments.

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

Band, I have been in marching and concert bands my whole life. They have all been designed around the HBCU college culture. However, college is different from middle and high school of course! Band teaches you humility, and courage, and how many things that are difficult are moreso mentally difficult than physical. The aspect that "no women" are in the band taught me the strength to push through and how you can do anything. Not looking for a pass. Performing when you feel you have nothing left to give teaches the power of stamina, excellence, teamwork, and hard work. In most of my job interviews, I give work-related examples from my band experience. Learning different languages and even having an underfunded program, I learned how to communicate, I learned a lot about various cultures and how to have a more broad way of thinking to come to a solution or prevent a problem. I also learned resilience through having to adjust to being full throttle a college student who was a musical and athletic performer grieving major losses, as well as changing my major my senior year because my degree program was being closed down. Seeing how my professors even took these devastations of being underfunded with grace and still gave us an amazing education with what was provided to them. Pure class and wisdom!

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 believe that one day we will be fairly funded. The demand for enrollment will increase as people value our schools more, but I pray that our culture being lost or watered down will not be the price to pay. I imagine we will do more to preserve the integrity of our history, culture, pride, and legacies as well as move forward into the future.

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