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howard university


Black Veteran & HBCU Grad Creates A Seven-Figure Clothing Brand

HGC Apparel is a Black veteran owned clothing brand founded by Marcia Smith,  a 90’s kid who’s passionate about the uplifting and expansion of the Black community.

black veteran
HGC Apparel founder, Marcia Smith

In this interview, we discuss how this mother and Howard University grad’s time in the military influenced her entrepreneurial journey. We also discuss what she has done to find success online and how she protects her intellectual property.

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Tony O. Lawson

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Charles White Painting Missing For Decades From Howard University Turns Up At Sotheby’s

A painting by a noted artist Charles White vanished from Howard University in the 1970s and hadn’t been seen publicly until it turned up at Sotheby’s Auction House last month — and now the school is suing to get back the piece that they believe was stolen from them decades ago.

Howard University, acquired the artwork, “Centralia Madonna,” in the 1940s after its creator, Charles White, completed an artist-in-residency at the school, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in Manhattan federal court.

The ink drawing depicts an African American Madonna figure and had been in the university’s possession until at least 1974, when a graduate student viewed the work in the school’s collection and made a record of the piece, according to the suit.

charles white
Centralia Madonna

At some point soon after, the artwork was stolen from the school’s collection and marked as “missing” by a university curator in 1976, according to the lawsuit.

Staff at the university hadn’t been able to locate it in the decades since — until Sotheby’s Auction House in Manhattan contacted them in May to let them know it had been consigned and was scheduled to be put up for auction.

Charles White in his Los Angeles studio, 1970 photo: Robert A. Nakamura

Staff at the auction house told administrators at Howard that two people from South Carolina, Larry and Virginia Borders, had consigned the painting but provided no paperwork showing how it ended up in their personal collection, according to the suit.

The Borders gave shifting stories about how they acquired the work, first saying they received it as a wedding gift from someone named J.D. Kibler in 1972, according to the suit.

charles white
Charles White, 1943, Photograph by Gordon Parks at age 25

They allegedly changed their story, claiming Kibler gave it to them as a gift for no particular reason — but couldn’t expand on their relationship with him, or even provide his first name.

“They claimed J.D. Kibler to be a close friend, they stated that they did not know what the ‘J.D.’ stood for,” the suit states.

In several phone calls and emails this week, the university demanded the Borders return the painting to the school, which the pair refused to do, according to the lawsuit.

The university filed the suit Friday, seeking the artwork’s return and attorney fees related to the legal action. The case is Howard University v Borders, 20-cv-4716, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

(L-R) Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederickand Gwendolyn H. Everett, Ph.D., director of the Howard University Gallery of Art and associate dean for the Division of Fine Arts beside Five Great American Negroes, at the Howard University Law Library

The couple’s “claims are all the more implausible given that Howard University has never sold or de-accessioned any work from its collection, and would certainly not sell or de-accession a work by Charles White, a hugely significant Black artist with strong ties to the university,” Howard said in its lawsuit.

In addition to purchasing several of his works, Howard appointed White to a three-year professorship shortly before his death.

In a statement, Sotheby’s said they are a third-party and the ownership dispute involves the Borders and Howard.

“This is an ownership dispute between the University and the consignors, which follows Sotheby’s due diligence in researching the work’s provenance,” the auction house said.

“Sotheby’s is merely a third-party stakeholder and will comply with any decision of the court,” it added.


Sources: New York Post and Bloomberg

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2020 Howard University Graduate Earns Ph.D. at Age 73

On April 26, 2020, Florence Didigu, 73, defended her dissertation to earn her Ph.D. in Communication, Culture and Media Studies. Her dissertation and future book titled, “Igbo Collective Memory of the Nigeria – Biafra War (1967-1970): Reclaiming Forgotten Women’s Voices and Building Peace through a Gendered Lens,” is a reflection of the Igbo women who, like herself, survived the war.

Howard Grad
Florence Didigu

Didigu, who is the oldest of five sisters, is graduating from Howard University with her fourth degree as a prestigious Sasakawa and Annenberg Fellow. She is thankful to have made it across many hurdles.

“In my second year at Howard, and very close to my screening test, I lost my mother and my father within months,” said Didigu. “I had to return to Nigeria each time to perform the demanding burial ceremonies for each. I was completely deflated, both physically and emotionally, but I persevered because my father always wanted me to be a ‘Doctor.’”

Didigu also battled shingles, which paralyzed the right side of her face and she lost her voice. It was symbolic because it’s her life’s work is to elevate more Igbo women’s voices too. “I was unable to speak clearly; this was the greatest tragedy of all since I was teaching a sophomore research course! The day I started speaking again and was discharged from the hospital was a special life moment.”

Yet, what she overcame 50 years ago, the Nigerian-Biafra War, a civil war between the Igbo people and the Nigerian government, is one challenge she will never forget.

“The day the Nigeria-Biafra War ended, I, like everyone was wallowing in anxiety and fear about what would happen to us as the vanquished. A very optimistic gentleman came over to me and asked: ‘Why are you so sad; can’t you see you have survived this terrible war?’ I stood up, even though the Nigerian Airforce was on its last bombing raid, and leaped up in the air in mad glee, repeating to myself and others: ‘Yes, I have survived, I am a survivor!’ This powerful survival instinct in me, which I call daring, and God’s help, are what made me overcome all personal challenges during my doctoral program and get to where I am today!”

She was once a producer and writer at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), and a broadcast regulator at the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in Nigeria prior to 2000. Upon graduation, Didigu plans to enter the professoriate and become a book author. She recently took courses at Howard in the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program. She plans to continue research and scholarly writings, as well as mentoring students to inspire and educate “the future generation that will move this discipline forward and tackle the communications-oriented challenges of the future.”

Carolyn Byerly, Ph.D.,  Didigu’s advisor and chair of the Communication, Culture and Media Studies doctoral program, noticed the excellence within her, noting that “she embodies endurance and intellectual determination.”

“I admire the way she delved inside the most painful period of her life to find the focus of her research on women, war and peace.  While a personally-driven project, she maintained the highest level of integrity and never made the research outcome about herself.  Florence received the Sasakawa Peace Foundation Fellowship in her last year to conduct interviews with 10 female survivors of that war, and she used feminist standpoint theory to interpret their stories.  It is a beautifully researched, theorized and written dissertation that demonstrates exceptional Howard scholarship.”




Howard University to receive $13 Million as part of Coronavirus Stimulus Package

The Senate unanimously passed an approximately $2.2 trillion stimulus package late Wednesday night in an effort to jump-start an economy severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

This coronavirus response package makes millions of dollars in funding available for Howard University through September 2021.

howard university
Washington DC, Howard University campus sign. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images)

The draft legislation calls for $13 million “to remain available through September 30, 2021, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, including to help defray the expenses directly caused by coronavirus and to enable grants to students for expenses directly related to coronavirus and the disruption of university operations.”

As you can imagine, not everyone is happy about this news. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz took to Twitter, saying , “$13,000,000 in taxpayer funds could be going to families across the nation struggling to put food on the table in the midst of COVID-19. Instead, it’s going to Howard University. Education is important- but a $13 million check to Howard does not belong in COVID-19 relief.”

What Gaetz failed to realize is that Howard is a federally chartered university that is rightfully owed emergency funding because Congressional appropriations fund the school, which also runs Howard University Hospital, a medical facility that has been designated one of DC’s COVID-19 treatment facilities.


-Tony O. Lawson


Howard University Teams With Amazon Studios To Launch Howard Entertainment

Howard University and Amazon Studios have teamed to launch Howard Entertainment, a program designed to diversify the entertainment industry by creating a pipeline for African-American students and other marginalized populations to train and study alongside entertainment executives.

Howard Entertainment

The immersive program, which kicks off January 2020, will be two semesters and take place in Los Angeles. It will include a unique interdisciplinary curriculum and will also include hands-on work as well as an opportunity to network with Amazon’s industry partners.

It will offer Howard University students the opportunity to take academic courses during the spring semester and participate in a fellowship embedded in the entertainment industry during the summer semester. The coursework will be applied to the student’s graduation requirements.

“The vision of Howard Entertainment is to offer a one-of-a-kind experience for students interested in all aspects of entertainment, from project greenlighting, to PR and marketing, to entertainment law and finance,” said President Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA. “This relationship aligns with Howard’s strategic goals of enhancing academic excellence and inspiring new knowledge.

Collaborating with Amazon Studios will enable us to marry academia and industry efforts to build a robust workforce of diverse entertainment industry leaders. With Howard’s proven track record of developing some of Hollywood’s most notable actors, comedians and musicians, this next level collaboration will enable us to have even greater impact.”

Howard Entertainment

“Amazon Studios has been working to create new pathways into the industry for talented students of all backgrounds and we are proud to team with Howard on this new program supporting aspiring entertainment leaders” adds Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios.

“As we strive to delight our Prime Video customers, we’re ensuring there are diverse perspectives and experiences around the table to help us make the best decisions in all aspects of the business.”

Howard Entertainment

To qualify, students must be enrolled as a Howard University student, must be an upperclassman or graduate student and will have to complete an application and interview to be considered for the program.

Students will be taught by Howard faculty who will be supported by Amazon Studios employees and other industry professionals invited by Amazon. This will give students to work in projects that offer “real world” application and will help students develop “work ready” skills prior to graduating.

Source: Deadline


Howard University Swimmer and Siblings Going to 2020 Olympics

Howard University swimmer Latroya Pina of Seekonk, Massachusetts will swim for Cape Verde at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan alongside her siblings, Troy and Jayla,.

The siblings were selected to represent the Cape Verde National Swim Team in the Confederation Africaine de Natation Championship Meet, scheduled for Sept. 10-16 in Algeria.

Howard University Swimmer 
The Pina siblings – Troy, Latroya and Jayla

They learned recently they were selected to represent the Cape Verde National Team at the Confederation Africaine de Natation Amateur Swimming and Open Water Championship Meet, scheduled for Sept. 10-16 in Algiers, Algeria. They’re the first team the island African nation has fielded at the competition, a precursor to World Championships in South Korea in 2019 and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, to which the team is granted an automatic berth.

latroya pina

“It’s not far-fetched, three members of one family all going to the World Championships and the Olympic Games,” said Latroya, a senior at Howard University in Washington, D.C. “We’re not just swimming for our colleges or schools, but for a nation so we want to do our best.”

The Pinas swimming talent caught the attention of Cape Verdean athletic officials from an unlikely source – Facebook.

“Latroya received a message via Facebook about it, that somebody wanted to meet her,” said Maria Alfama, the siblings’ mother. “We thought that it was a scam!”

After initial contact with Latroya, the country’s swimming federation – which started in November 2017 — discovered Troy’s times.

“Our mom put up our performances on Facebook and somebody from the Cape Verdean government saw them,” said Troy, a sophomore at St. Peter’s University in Jersey City, N.J. “They have people trying to find athletes for sports.”

troy pina

The Pinas were informed of their possible selection to the team in February, with their times tracked through an online database. Their mother Maria Alfama orchestrated the siblings’ paperwork to become dual citizens with the Cape Verde embassy in Quincy.

“It was a lot who was who,” Alfama said of coordinating the process with the embassy and the Cape Verdean Sports Ministry. “Once they found out that Latroya had a brother and sister who swam too, everything fell into place.”

The fledgling team — there’s one other member besides the Pinas — might be small, but the responsibility that comes with being on a national team isn’t lost on them.

“Cape Verde is trying to make swimming a big sport now, so it’s our responsibility to represent our country,” Latroya said. “People in Cape Verde and all the Cape Verdeans in the U.S. will be looking up to us.”

Consisting of 10 islands off Africa’s west coast, Cape Verde has a population of a half-million people. Despite being surrounded by water, it doesn’t have any swimming pools. In the past, any individual swimmers participated in open water competitions — which the Pinas plan on doing as well — but the country has initiated plans to build an indoor swimming pool ahead of the 2020 Olympics.

Most of the athletes that compete for the country in any sport are from the U.S.

The Pinas — including Jayla, a rising freshman at Seekonk High — have been swimming as members of the Seekonk High-based Seacoast Swimming Association under former Warrior coach and current Brown University aquatics director Ray Grant and Brian Cameron, the current Warrior coach.

“We’ve worked with Latroya and Troy for the past eight years and with Jayla for the past six years,” Cameron said. “They are all such great kids with great work ethics and this is a great opportunity for them all.”

The siblings have been early risers all summer, heading to morning workouts (7-8 a.m.) at Seekonk High, then afternoon workouts at Brown’s Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center, being in the water 2 1/2-3 hours daily, six days a week.

The Pina siblings do their “short course” (25 yards) work at Seekonk High and their “long course” (50 meters) work at Brown. The Pinas will train locally for the international competition in Algeria. When school begins, Latroya will likely depart from Washington, while Troy will return from New Jersey to make the trip with Jayla and Cameron from Boston to Algeria.

Alfama remembers the Latroya’s start in swimming at age five when she was more interested in gymnastics. One day at the East Providence Boys and Girls Club, a swim team coach suggested she take lessons and swim for the girls’ club team. Five years later, as a 10-year old, Latroya was swimming at national meets.

Today, Latroya, at 5-foot-6, has already placed her name in the Howard University record books at the Burr Pool. She is a member of the career-best 200 (1:47.77) and 400 (3:58.22) medley relay teams(3:58.22), ranking No. 2 in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.07) and 100 individual medley (1:03.04), No. 3 in the 200 breaststroke (2:26.14) and No. 5 in the 200 IM (2:14.18).

She was so focused on her academics at Howard University and ambitions to attend medical school that she never thought of extending her swimming career.

“Academics has always been my main focus because once my last collegiate meet was done with, after college it’s the real world,” she said.

Now with the World Games and Olympic Games in the future, she will likely take a “gap year” before continuing post-graduate studies.

The 5-foot-8 Troy had season best swims for St. Peter’s at the Eugene and Teresa Imperatore Swimming Center during MAAC meets in the 200 individual medley (2:05.14) and 200 butterfly (2:04.61).

“He has emerged as an active leader for our team,” said Mark Kretzer, St. Peter’s head swimming and diving coach. “When he told me about the opportunity to represent his mother’s country of Cape Verde, I knew this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for him.”

At the African championship meet, Troy will likely be competing in the 50 butterfly, 50 and 100 freestyle events. Latroya will likely take on the 50 and 100 breaststroke events and the 50 freestyle, while Jayla will likely swim the 50, 100 and 200 breaststroke events.

For the siblings, swimming is has been a constant, even while away from home.

“For me, my brother and my sister, swimming never stops,” Latroya said. “Swimming is something we love to do — it’s fun, it’s never been a burden.”

And all of them are proud to represent Cape Verde, an experience made even better with their siblings alongside.

“I am proud to represent the country of Cabo Verde and ecstatic to compete in my first international meet,” Troy said. “It’s a great feeling to also have two siblings competing along with me for Cabo Verde.”

Even more proud is their mom.

“I don’t even know how to swim!” Alfama said. “I was happy just watching. I’ve spent a lot of miles on the road, a lot of hours at pools with them. My life began when they got involved with sports and swimming. I was a super sports mom.”

And while they used to joke about being in the Olympics some day, Latroya said how they came upon the experience was “random” and none of them ever dreamed they’d be this close.

“You always trained harder for the bigger meets when you were in high school and now in college,” Troy said. “Now that we’re going to the African games, then the World Championships and Olympic Games, this is something that we never dreamed.”


Howard University President Appointed to the Federal Reserve Bank Board

Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick has been elected to the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s Baltimore Branch.

The branch makes up the fifth district of 12 regional Reserve Banks. Frederick will be one of seven members elected to the branch’s board and will serve a three-year term that begins this month.

Howard University

“This is a great honor, and I’m excited to contribute my diverse business experience and knowledge to create economic and monetary policies to continue to stimulate growth and stability in our current banking system,” Frederick said.

Frederick will bring prior board experience, having served on the Board of Advisors for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), which was established to provide the president and secretary of education advisory support and program and strategy recommendations to strengthen HBCUs.

As the 17th president of Howard University, Frederick leads the federally chartered private HBCU, which has more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Howard University is one of only 48 U.S. private, doctoral research universities.

Since Frederick assumed leadership of Howard University, he has remained committed to attracting the nation’s top students and generating more award recipients for national and international scholarships and fellowships. In 2016 alone, the university saw an increase in scholarship applications and recipients for the competitive Rhodes, Gates Cambridge, Marshall, and Schwarzman scholarships. This can be attributed to Frederick establishing the Office of the Honors and Scholar Development to provide shared resources for the university’s honors programs and honors societies and to offer assistance to students applying for these nationally competitive awards.

Under Frederick’s leadership, the university has also seen improvements in national college rankings. In fact, in 2017 the university jumped to 124 from a ranking of 142 in 2014 on the U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges Ranking of National Universities. Frederick has remained committed to improving alumni giving, which has increased to 10 percent in 2016 from nearly five percent in 2013.

“Dr. Frederick’s career accomplishments and experiences provide the kind of perspective the Federal Reserve values in its directors,” said Senior Vice President and Regional Executive Dave Beck of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Baltimore Branch.  “He’ll bring valuable insights about trends in healthcare and higher education, and provide a grassroots view into the D.C. metro area economy. We welcome him to the board of our Baltimore office and look forward to his service.”

Frederick’s leadership, healthcare and higher education contributions have been recognized by numerous organizations, and he has received several honors, including being named by the Washington Business Journal as one of the Power 100 of 2015 Innovators. He was named Male President of the Year by HBCU Digest in 2015 and also received the Minority Business Leader Award in 2015 from the Washington Business Journal, and a congressional citation for distinguished service presented by the Honorable Barbara Lee during Caribbean-American Heritage Month in April 2014.

The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank manages the nation’s money supply to keep inflation low, to help the economy grow and to supervise and regulate financial institutions. The regional district includes the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and most of West Virginia.


Anthony D. Owens
Assistant Director, Media Relations
Howard University

Source: Howard University


Washington, DC – January 11, 2017 – (


22 Howard University Alumni Owned Businesses

Howard University has produced some of the best and brightest minds in the world. Some well known Howard University alumni are Debbie Allen, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and Taraji P. Henson. However, there are other talented Howard University Alumni that are entrepreneurs excelling in their respective fields. Here are just a few:

Howard University Alumni Owned Businesses

The Spice Suite (Washington, D.C.) is an interactive spice bar which features house made infused cooking oils and spice blends.  Founder: Angel Anderson


Volt Energy (Washington, D.C.) is one of the largest minority owned solar energy development firms that builds, operates, and maintains state-of-the-art solar energy systems for commercial, industrial, government, and educational institutions. Founders: Gilbert G Campbell III and Antonio Francis


The Envision Firm (Virginia) is a luxury lifestyle management & event planning company.  Founder: Raven White


Greenlight Design Studios is a full service Design company with over 15 years of experience. They provide Graphic and Web Design services, as well as Brand Identity packages. Founder: Jamal “Hug” Pope.


William + James (Philadelphia) is a bespoke bowtie company focusing on custom, handmade bow ties.  The line represents a marriage between the charming aesthetics and revolutionary philosophies of William Edward Burghardt, James Baldwin and more. Founder: (ShoppeBlack co-founder) Shantrelle P. Lewis


Smith Public Trust (Washington D.C.) is a rustic-modern tavern and progressive space that offers food, craft beer, spirits & wine.  Founder: Miles Gray


Integrated Design & Construction (Connecticut) is a full service architecture, construction management administration and sustainable design firm, which specializes in high performance buildings.  Founder: Thaddeus Stewart

Howard University Alumni

Urban Co-Lab (Austin) is an urban innovation focused co-working space and startup incubator. Founder: Natalie Cofield

Howard University Alumni

Justice of the Pies (Chicago) is a bakery that specializes in sweet and savory pies. The bakery’s mission is to implement job training and skill development for those who have faced significant difficulties and barriers in gaining employment. Founder: Maya-Camille Broussard


Jin-Ja (Philadelphia) is a combination of ingredients gathered from a number of international cultures including Asian, African and South American put together in a novel way to produce a unique blend that is both pleasing to the palette and provocative to the senses. Founder: Reuben Canada

Howard University Alumni

Cordially Invited – Party Paper Wrap (Los Angeles) is a an award winning boutique store that offers customers a one-stop shopping experience for stylish and elegant gifts, stationery, greeting cards, wrapping papers, and more! Founder: Yvette McNally



HillPoint Preparatory School (New Jersey)is a daycare and pre school that uses intentional, structured play to encourage critical thinking, independence and respect for cultural and social diversity. Founder: Jennifer Henry


The Flower Guy Bron (Virginia) provides bespoke design and styling experiences for events of all types in the Richmond, Hampton Roads, Charlottesville, and Northern Virginia areas. Founder: Bron Hansboro


Lisnr (Cincinnati)is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. It is a digital sound file that turns any speaker or piece of media into a beacon, working seamlessly across physical and digital spaces more effectively than all current solutions in the marketplace, most notably Bluetooth and traditional ACR. Founder: Rodney Williams


Victor Group (Los Angeles) is a multi-service branding agency that makes people and their brands fascinating. They help clients build their branding campaign from the ground up. They offer services ranging from designing logo’s to pitching to major opportunities. Founder: Victoria Reese 

Howard University Alumni

Tracy Chambers Vintage (New York) carries carefully curated vintage and contemporary clothing for today’s woman. Classic. Timeless. Style. Inspiration. Founder: Helen Nurse


Nelson Publishing & Marketing (Michigan) is a full-service press that publishes books with strong positive messages. They have printed 74 books which are distributed throughout the United States, Canada, and on the web. Founder: Lori Nelson Lee


ACE Media Corp (New York) is a Broadcast Media Sales, Branding & Entertainment firm. The company provides marketing for clients, from grass roots to high tech campaigns. They have recently, adding talent acquisition to their offering. Founder: Andrea Holmes Thompkins

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 12.29.06 AM

Ndemay Graphics (Washington D.C.) was created by Cheriss May. She has worked for The Washington Post and was the Assistant Managing Editor of Photo/Graphics for the European & Pacific Stars & Stripes newspaper. Her services include photography, graphic design and web design.



Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson


Needed: Howard Alumni Feedback for a Survey on HBCU Retention

As everyone may or may not know, we the founders of ShoppeBlack, are both Howard Alum. In fact, we’re also members of the same incoming class (HU c/o 2000). Oftentimes, we discuss so much that goes on at Howard and how the institution made such a huge impact on our lives. As graduates of HBCUs, we oftentimes feel very heartfelt sentiment about our days on the yard but don’t always give back in the ways that we should. Maybe we’re still scorned by those long registration lines or attitudinal employer in the A-building. Whatever the reason, that shouldn’t stop us from ensuring that our institutions have the capacity to lead 21st century education and provide the opportunity for to prepare thousands of young minds to serve as our world’s next leaders.

That said, we’d like to invite you to participate in a study being conducted by a dear friend, fellow HBCU alumnus, Sakinah Rahman. The survey is a continuation of her research started during her time as an MBA student at UPENN’s Wharton School of Business in 2013 examining the academic niche and student retention strategies employed at select colleges and universities.

Thanks for your feedback and please share! Our voices, after all, do make a difference.

-Shantrelle + Tony




A university has no greater ambassador than its alumni. This study is to hear what attracted and helped retain Howard alumni as undergraduates understanding that the attraction as well as retention policies employed inform Howard’s value proposition. I chose the survey method of study to interject the voice of alumni into the conversation surrounding student retention strategies and academic brand.

Who better to communicate to prospective families, donors, and legislatures the value of a Howard education than the woman or man the University trained. The survey questions regarding the Howard college experience is:

  • to gain insight into the University’s graduation rates (current four-year rate is 42%*)
  • promote a profile of HBCUs and HBCU students different from media and policy reports
  • provide the quantitative and qualitative data to compare to the strategies utilized at other institutions in development of a best practice case study

With a new President and the University’s upcoming sesquicentennial anniversary in 2017, this is an exciting time to examine Howard’s value proposition. I want to make your voice heard!

The goal is 100 responses. I’d also love if you’d share the survey link on Facebook, Twitter, and email to your friends, sorority sisters, frat brothers and acquaintances not connected to social media!

*Source: US News & World Report. Howard’s six-year graduation rate is 60%, on par with the U.S. national average.

MSI_4 (1)

About Sakinah Rahman: 

With 17 years of public finance experience, including ten years of commercial and investment banking experience and most recently as a nonprofit executive, Sakinah recently created S3 Rock Research, LLC, a market research firm specializing in survey design and analysis for data-based strategies. Ms. Rahman authored Spelman College: A Case Study of Student Retention Strategies, which was published in Opportunities and Challenges at Historically Black Colleges and Universities in 2014. For the past two years, Sakinah has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

Sakinah earned a B.S. in Finance from Morgan State University and a M.B.A from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Questions or more feedback? Contact Sakinah directly at

Morgan State Student Government Association ca. 1990s.
Sakinah and fellow Morgan State Student Government Association members ca. 1990s.



Coming to America: The Evolution of Oluwatoyin

Like a sizeable amount of other Nigerians, I was born in the U.K.  and actually didn’t move to Lagos, Nigeria until I was 5 years old. I cried my eyes out when I heard the news that I would soon be leaving my  friends and life in London to move to back home. I had no idea where this place was and my older relatives that visited us from there, “talked funny.”

I had no say in the matter, and made the 3270 mile journey, kicking and screaming, at least according to my adolescent memory.  When I arrived, it was a definitely a culture shock. The music was different, I could not stand the constant power outages and the lack of access to my favorite British foods was frustrating.

However, the transition into life in Lagos became much easier as I made friends at school and developed relationships with my grandparents and other relatives who I am very close to – cousins and children of family friends that I played with.


My Mother still teaches at the grade school I attended, the American International School of Lagos (AISL). What was great about AISL was the fact that I was able to make friends with kids from all over the globe and learn about their cultures. During most summer breaks, my mom would take my two younger siblings and I, on a trip abroad, mostly to the U.S.

My Dad usually stayed back home to keep an eye on the house and car since he didn’t trust the driver or house girl to act right if the whole family was away for an extended period of time. (Still laughing about that). New York City!  As soon as we would land at LaGuardia, my siblings and I were ready to head straight to the mall to rack up on school clothes and party outfits to take back home. I couldn’t wait to get back to school and begin Operation Stunt 101 with my newly acquired gear.

The Secondary School I attended, Home Science Association Secondary School was at that time, a new private Nigerian school. My class was its first set of students. This was my first experience at a school where everyone looked like me. I immediately clicked with three guys, Ose, Ekene and Ejike. We were inseparable. Due to our self-identified coolness and rep, we saw ourselves as the Boys 2 Men of the school (definitely because of our style…not our singing ability).


Heavily influenced by Black American culture that was exported overseas, in high school we listened to a lot of RnB and Soul, so Boys 2 Men, Jodeci, Silk, Blackstreet and Shai were in heavy rotation, especially at our house parties. This genre was most likely so popular at that time because it was the perfect opportunity to slow dance with the girls from my school and neighboring schools.

I remember watching the video for one of our favorites, “Baby I’m Yours” by Shai. The video was filmed on Howard’s campus and opens with a shot of the main Howard University sign. That was my first introduction to HU but I didn’t really take much note of it at the time. The next time wouldn’t be until I saw a Howard University sweatshirt being worn by Mohammed, a cast member on MTV’s Real World III: San Francisco and figured I would look it up because now I was curious and I was in the process of researching universities anyway.

At the time I was also watching “A Different World” religiously, complete with my own pair of Dwayne Wayne flip glasses. While I was living in a country of 170 million people who for the most part, looked like me [read: were Black], I never considered that going to a university in the States would afford me the same experience. After doing some research, I was excited about the possibility of attending a real life version of Hillman College. It was then that I made my decision to attend HU.

In 1996, I moved to Washington, D.C., from Lagos, Nigeria to attend college. This was a pivotal moment. Arriving on Howard’s campus was the start of a point in my life where I had moved out of my parents house, moved to another country and was learning more about myself. I met and befriended Black people from around the world. Up until then I had never met anyone from the Caribbean.

I had not even met that many Africans from countries outside of Nigeria. It was amazing to discover all the differences in our various cultures as well as all of the similarities. I hung out with everyone from bookworms to weed heads. Aspiring rappers to aspiring politicians.


The more I learn about African history and the history of Black people in the Diaspora, the more I understand why people devote their lives to the study of this subject matter. It’s truly fascinating stuff and it has given me a new appreciation for my people and my own homegrown Nigerian culture.

The music that my parents used to listen to that was once unappealing was now the hot ish New Afrikans and Afropolitans were bumping, jumping and funking to. My love for all things Black American culture now included an appreciation for the fashion, music and style made in Lagos.

Nigeria is the new hot scene – the music dominates the African pop music industry. The fashion and the movie industries are also billion dollar money makers. Nigeria is HOT, pun very intended. Somewhat like my immortal country men before me, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, it took my Coming to America to change the game – shifting my entire outlook.

While I’m no scholar or historian, these topics have become an important part of who I am and I feel a responsibility to do my part to move us as a people in the right direction. Many people feel the same way and have a variety of solutions they feel are the way forward.

Just as I have an appreciation for our history and culture, I also appreciate the process of creating capital and how it can be used as a tool improve the lives of my family, friends and community. So, for me,  business ownership and group economics make the most sense, in the U.S., in Africa or in any other part of the world where a people with so much potential are on the bottom of the economic totem pole.

This is a huge force behind what has led me to start my own business. It is what drives me start other businesses. It’s why I get satisfaction from encouraging  others who have started a business and those who are considering  doing so.

Everybody won’t get it. For some reason, the idea of shopping Black doesn’t sit well with everyone. However, what I do know is that for many compelling reasons, more people are Shopping Black than ever before. It’s time to get our wealth back, one Naira, Dollar, Pound and Yen at a time. #shoppeblack


-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson

Artwork by Glen Marrero