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White House celebrates HBCU students with ‘Cosby’ and ‘Real Housewives’ stars

White House celebrates HBCU students with ‘Cosby’ and ‘Real Housewives’ stars
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The White House celebrated Historically Black Colleges and Universities on Thursday full of pomp and circumstance as students and alumni descended to Washington. D.C., to center HBCU excellence and pride.

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The White House event, which drew about 100 guests, centered on essential policy issues impacting students and Black communities, including artificial intelligence, student loan debt, STEM, and the economy.

During a roundtable panel held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex, celebrity guests and HBCU graduates actress Keisha Knight Pulliam, reality star Candiace Dillard Bassett, and actor and TV personality Terrence J discussed various policy issues.

The celebrities, all HBCU graduates, participated in a panel to share their personal experiences on HBCU campuses with students.

The day-long session was meant to empower HBCU students, giving them an understanding of how important they are in American society, particularly as they move into the workforce after graduation. The students’ HBCU pride was on full display as they sported their school paraphernalia and participated in a roll call to shout out their respective institutions. HBCUs represented included Spelman College, Morehouse College, Howard University, Tennessee State University, Delaware State University, South Carolina State University, Hampton University, and Lincoln University, among others.

HBCU students attend Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence for HBCU reception. (Photo: White House/Lawrence Jackson, Polly Irungu)

Guests were also entertained, similar to what one would find on an HBCU campus, with a step show performed by some of the Black Greek letter fraternities and sororities from Morgan State University. The stomps of the steppers reverberated on the makeshift platforms in the space not far from the office of Vice President Kamala Harris.

TheGrio caught up with Terrance J, who said he was elated to see the White House “promoting our love for HBCUs.” He called the day’s festivities “an amazing experience.” The proud North Carolina A&T University graduate said he hopes the Biden-Harris administration and future administrations will continue to foster an “infectious” attitude toward supporting HBCUs through student loan debt forgiveness and federal investments.

Virginia State University President Makola Abdullah, who led a presentation for students on the critical role of AI, said it was important for the White House to recognize HBCUs because “we have done so much for this country.”

“The history of HBCUs is phenomenal,” he added, “But most importantly, we have some incredible young people who are doing phenomenal work, and they deserve to be recognized for the work that they do.”

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Keisha Knight Pulliam, best known for her roles in “The Cosby Show” and “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” told theGrio it was “an amazing opportunity” to come to the White House and speak to HBCU students. 

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ATLANTA, GEORGIA – JUNE 17: Actress Keshia Knight Pulliam attends The Big Homecoming Event at Clark Atlanta University on June 17, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

“It was so beautiful seeing all of these faces looking back at us, representing all these miraculous, amazing HBCUs in this country,” said the Spelman graduate.  

Candiace Dillard Bassett, who stars in “The Real Housewives of Potomac,” told theGrio, “It’s a gift to be able to pour into our future.” She said it was a “full circle moment” for her as a former White House intern who worked in the Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs as a student at Howard in 2010.  

Reacting to the overturning of race-based affirmative action and the impact it could have on HBCUs and the broader community, Dillard Bassett said, “This is just another example of us having to come together to fight back against an establishment to take from us what we have earned [and] what we have worked for and what we deserve to have, which is a community to surround our Black and brown youth.”

The elated HBCU students ended the night at Vice President Harris’s residence at the Naval Observatory for a reception that turned into a house party. Guests were treated to hors d’oeuvres curated by celebrity chef Carla Hall, a Howard alumna, live performances by the Bowie State University Band, and DJ B-Hen, a graduate of Morehouse College.

In her remarks, Harris reflected on her time as a student at Howard University and spoke about the importance of HBCUs. The vice president thanked the guests of leaders in attendance for their work and urged them to continue fighting to protect fundamental freedoms.

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