Howard University: A Journey to the Mecca

This semester I primarily focused on the built environment of Howard University hospital. Soon I quickly learned that in order to understand the Hospital I have to understand the University as a whole, specifically the College of Medicine. I decided to focus on Howard as “The Mecca” because it is a term that has earned them international recognition. The term “Mecca” originally refers to the city in Saudi Arabia and is considered the holiest city to the religion of Islam. Similarly, Howard University has been described as the “Mecca” because it is considered the most prestigious Historically Black College in the United States.

For the first essay, I chose to do my rhetorical space at Howard University Hospital. Upon my research, I realized that in order to understand Howard University Hospital I needed to analyze Howard University and how they both correlate to being called the Mecca. Charted in 1862, this hospital was designed to cater to the medical needs of African Americans during the civil war, today this hospital is the largest hospital to cater to the needs of African Americans in the community.

As I journey through this space, I noticed that the hospital is old and has not been kept up to date. It does, however, care for the community it is serving and prides itself on serving the black community of DC for over 150 years. The hospital had an eery feel to it every time I entered. As I discovered my space more and more I noticed that business was not booming for the hospital. There seemed to be no one being catered too. I later looked at some yelp reviews and realized that most people did not have great experiences at the hospital. The hospital is, however, trying to repair its legacy and puts added focus into community-based care.

Dr. Alexader Agusta (pictured above) was the first African American to head the hospital and shaped it an elite teaching hospital. While still under federal control, the hospital later moved from 520 W. Street, NW to its current location on Georgia Ave. The hospital was eventually acquired by Howard University. Mudd hall now serves as a museum to educate the public on the history of medical education and health care among the black community.

Both Howard University and Howard hospital serve as a Mecca to the black community. The hospital is a mecca for African Americans in the medical field because it gives them a tangible location to gain training from someone who looks like them and shares their same experiences. Similarly, Howard University serves as the mecca for prestigious black universities. It also gives students who join the school, something tangible to look up to. So many successful black people have entered this school and most have come out praising the mecca for the way it has influenced their life and carriers.

Many black successful authors, entertainers, and judicial members have come from this institution. They have made their mark on the world and they all have something in common. They derive from the mecca. For these individuals, Howard stands as the beacon of what HBCUs and minorities are capable of when their needs are made a priority.  Also, with some of the notable graduates and placement in the capital of the United States, it adds notoriety to the name and serves as a reminder that they are the best.

In his book, “Between the World and Me” Writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about his experiences during his time at Howard University. He mentions that [his] only Mecca was, is, and shall always be Howard University.” It is important to note that Coates draws a distinction between the university as an academic institution and as a vibrant community made up of young black people from every background, social class, and cultural orientation. Although he never graduates from Howard, he uses events like their annual Homecoming, as a symbol of black power. Similar to the actual mecca in Saudi Arabia which is considered the holiest place in Islam, Howard university is a source of strength and guidance throughout his life.

Recently, both Howard university and Howard university hospital have fallen on hard times. The hospital is struggling financially and is in talks of selling the hospital, and as of 2016, it has had the highest rate of wrongful death lawsuits of any health facility in Washington, DC. The school has also fallen from grace. Students are complaining of scholarships being revoked without notice and students are leaving the school due to financial difficulties. There is still room for Howard to improve its school. As the first federally chartered University there is hope things will change for the better of the community.

In conclusion, this project allowed me to learn a lot about the Howard university Community. The mecca comes in all forms whether doctors students or entertainers. Everyone who walks through those gates has been touched by the mecca and have formed their own mecca communities within the school. As Ta-Nihisi Coates says, “The Mecca derives its power from the heritage of Howard University which in Jim Crow days enjoyed a near-monopoly on black talent.”

I hope that you enjoyed my presentation and learned more about the community of Howard University.

Here is a powerpoint Presentation on my research:
https://1drv.ms/p/s!AgAagQPSyNWeaUdFmAu0rxfYcnA

Other descriptions:

[EXCLUSIVE] Howard University President On Criticism, Challenges & Future Of the Fabled HBCU

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