It can be a bittersweet feeling when students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are proud to rep their school while also facing the challenges that may come with attending one.
According to a 2022 report by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice (Temple University), out of a surveyed 5,000 students from 14 private and public HBCUs in the fall of 2020, 46% shared that they “lacked sufficient food a month prior to when the survey was taken.”
“There are a lot of students who I know personally, and even in my own experience, that experience food insecurity on a daily basis,” said William Teasley, a senior (at the time of the report) at North Carolina A&T State University, per The Hope Center.
Teasly also added that college administrators would express that “[they’re] going to provide you with a great education, however, in order to utilize that education, you’re going to need housing, you’re going to need adequate food, you’re going to need the mental health resources … because if I’m hungry, the last thing I’m worried about is Physics II.”
In early November 2023, PepsiCo announced its commitment to lend a helping hand regarding food insecurity at HBCUs. The corporation will distribute $50,000 in grants — totaling $250,000 — to five HBCUs to help over 37,500 HBCU students who struggle to balance tuition and purchasing meals, according to a press release.
The HBCUs include Morgan State University, Prairie View A&M University, Florida A&M University, Bethune-Cookman University, and Jackson State University. On Nov. 18, during the Florida Classic college football game in Orlando, FL, Wale will join PepsiCo as the corporation donates a check on the field to Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman University.
An HBCU alum himself — having attended Bowie State University and Virginia State University — the rapper knows firsthand the struggles that HBCU students face. What’s more, he experienced what it was like at a predominantly white institution too, as he also went to Robert Morris University. Although Wale admits that he had a “unique” college experience due to being a student-athlete, one thing, in particular, stood out to him as a contrast between the two types of institutions: community.
“There wasn’t very much of community at Robert Morris [University] when I was there,” Wale recalled to AFROTECH. “We got the Black kids that played sports, and that was about it.”
Having seen what talent HBCUs have to offer from his own time at them, Wale hopes for PepsiCo’s initiative to keep the momentum going by pouring support into the institutions.
“Hopefully we can get some of these bigger five-star recruits to take a chance and go to an HBCU,” he said. “Like, you saw Travis Hunter did it. With these big companies and these NIL [deals], maybe we can get some of our kids from our community to shine on the HBCU platform, because having a steady eye on HBCUs is very important. Not just [around] homecoming.”
As Wale gears up to celebrate HBCUs during the Florida Classic, he’s had a celebration of his own. On Nov. 10, he performed at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where he celebrated the 10th anniversary of his RIAA gold-certified third studio album, “The Gifted,” per local Fox-5.
In the previous month, it was announced that Wale had signed to Def Jam, TMZ reported. When asked what has helped him to never lose sense of himself in the music business when moving to a new label home, he mainly credits his perseverance to prayer.
“Praying, man, and just trying to be centered and around like-minded people,” he told AFROTECH. “That’s all you really can do. This is a crooked industry and once you realize what it is, it’s easier to navigate through.”
The rap star also noted that although reviews on his music “used to get” to him, he no longer reads too much into them.
November was also the month to experience AFROTECH Conference 2023. This year’s finale highlighted the AFROTECH Music Stage with performances from Rick Ross, Jadakiss, Saweetie, and more. Last year, Wale closed out the annual conference with his performance in Austin, TX.
While he described AFROTECH Conference as a “fun” experience, he also highlighted how it brings people from similar walks of life together.
“I’ve been really heavy on this community thing, like pockets in society where we can exist and really support each other,” Wale said. “It’s a specific thing. It’s a specific group of individuals, and I think we need that, man. The older you get, the more you gotta find your tribe.”
He continued, “You could be around people and then just be really stagnant or you could find your community and things become more fruitful. Whether you’re in tech, sports, music, art. You gotta find your people. And AFROTECH is a community.”