Washington, DC, is in the midst of a culture war between the new residents who want to mold the city into their own version of VanillaTown and the folks who didn’t ask for any of this shit but now have to defend their ways of life. Yes, we’re talking gentrification. From new residents of Chinatown trying to stop the kids from playing music near the Gallery Place Metro, DC’s current mayor (who is black), Muriel Bowser ignorantly trying to erase quintessential DC culture, the #DontMuteDC movement near Howard University’s campus to the recent issue ON Howard’s campus where residents have taken to using Howard’s Yard as a dog park, with one resident even suggesting that if Howard doesn’t like it, the university should move. Read that again.
Well, Howard University’s President, Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick issued a statement regarding the recent shenanigans. It’s a very solid statement. I also feel like it would be perfect for a Key & Peele Anger Translator sketch. I won’t go the anger translator route myself, but I do hear his statement differently in my head. I figured I’d share that with you.
(Howard University Statement “Update on the Howard University Upper Quadrangle” as per Howard University’s Newsroom in bold; how I hear it in my head in italics)
Dear Howard University Family,
Le sigh, Family, Howard Family, my folks, and the rest of black America, I hate to have to address this Plymouth Rock landed on us bullshit but you already know what it is, so here’s the situation.
Our campus is a beautiful, sacred space that provides comfort and, in many ways, sanctuary in a place that feels more like a second home than merely an academic institution.
I don’t even know why I have to say this; but I know I do: the “good” liberal white folks, (like the type that inhabit Washington, DC, and walk their dogs on our yard - while NOT representing the Wu, mind you), in particular love them a good “safe space,” so why we have to explain why Howard is one is dumb, but whitefolks gon’ whitefolks. I know that you know that Howard is not just a school, it’s a state of mind, it’s a bedrock institution of blackness, it is a place where you should be able to come for four years (or more, no Length-of-Stay Shaming here!) and embrace and wrap your heart and soul in black thought, love and excellence without having to worry about some white person who values their pets over Black Lives walking through campus and letting their dogs pee on sacred plots, trees and culture.
Why they (and by ‘they’ I mean white people like that ignorant-ass-white-man who said maybe Howard should move - bruh, fuck that white man) feel like our beloved institution belongs to DC more than it belongs to the Black Community is beyond me, especially because I’d bet good money if a bunch of black folks started walking their dogs through American University, Georgetown, or their outdoor Save the Black Community FroYoYogurt Meetup that doesn’t actually include any black people, it would be a “woop woop, that’s the sound of da police” problem.
But white entitlement issues are a real thing and because they moved in yesterday - lest they forget Howard been here since March 1867 - they feel like everything around them belongs to them EVEN when it literally doesn’t. These white people REALLY don’t like being excluded from anything they feel belongs to them even if they literally have nothing to do with it. Hell, they hate being excluded from shit they know DOESN’T belong to them. Howard is not a dog park. It’s just disrespectful.
The Upper Quadrangle, commonly referred to as the Yard, is a treasured site of many auspicious occasions. Our Commencement Ceremony is the ultimate long walk that symbolizes a sacred tradition, symbolic of every student’s matriculation. The Howard University community wants to see this area remain pristine and symbolic of all that Howard University represents.
This paragraph is really to the colonizers: Dearest colonizers, you all fuck up everything you come into contact with. Facts. History supports this. Please keep your destructive, manifest destiny asses off our sacred and hallowed grounds that we use for all manner of Black Excellence, big and small. Because you lack respect for the grounds on which you walk, it’s probably best that you just stay on the perimeter since you need to “engage with DC.” Go fuck up some shit the city will probably fix if you call.
We are aware of the concerns regarding dog walking across campus. Howard is a private institution nestled in the heart of an urban city and we’ve shared a long-standing positive relationship with our evolving community for more than 150 years, which we look forward to continuing in the future.
We saw the news stories, too. Move the campus, my ass. This is Howard. Open-campus, but we’re private and we make the rules ‘round here. We’ve been in the game for years, educating and affecting DC’s culture and the nation’s culture focusing on us and now these gentrifying ass white people show up, change up the neighborhood, try to shut down the go-go IN THE MIDDLE OF A COMMERCIAL DISTRICT IN A MAJOR U.S. CITY and decide that we need to be concerned about them. To quote one of our most famous students, Sean “Puffy” Combs, “we ain’t goin’ nowhere, we ain’t goin’ nowhere, we can’t be stopped...” They better go on with that bullshit. We were here first. Shit, real talk, we came before Columbus. They might be changing up DC, but this here is Howard.
We can relate to the Nation wanting to visit and witness the Howard mystique. The institution has a tradition of opening our doors for everyone to observe the best that Howard University has to offer. We’ve shared many symposiums, workshops and concerts with our neighbors. Our annual parade proudly wraps through the surrounding streets and our students walk safely through the neighborhood.
We know white people have a voyeurism problem when it comes to blackness and black culture. We might as well be a museum to them. And because we are an overly welcoming and forgiving people, to a fault really, we have long been fine with sharing ourselves with the world. We share our customs with them during Homecoming Weekend and everything. But you know what, this just goes to show you, you can’t be sharing everything with everybody. Some folks don’t appreciate shit.
At the beginning of my presidency we held regular meetings that included students, faculty and members of the Advisory Neighborhood Committees to cultivate a town and gown relationship. I recently reached out to our local ANC and Councilwoman to engage in a dialogue. We recognize that service animals are a necessary aspect of modern-day life and we will accommodate them as needed. We appreciate pet owners respecting our campus by not bringing pets onto the private areas.
I tried to be nice. Really, I did. I talked to the whole damn community; even though white folks go too fuckin’ far with their comfort animals, having service animals makes sense ‘round here. But Howard is a private institution with private areas, like The Yard, so we gon’ ask those white folks to keep their non-service animal pets off ours. It ain’t like they NEED to be there. They came through, we assessed the situation and now we’re asking that they don’t. From here on out, it’s a problem. Now, we gon’ take it as intentional disrespect.
Thank you for your emails and expressive thoughts surrounding this matter. I will always work in the best interest of the Howard University community.
I heard you and I hate to have to even address this like this. We all know this isn’t about dogs, it’s about entitlement and white supremacy and a culture that believes that once it shows up somewhere that everything it can touch belongs to it.
That ain’t this.
Excellence in Truth and Service,
Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA